For three months they’d been asking their parents to come a little early so they could complete laps around the gym, all on their own initiative. They walked and skipped and hopped, sometimes as much as 10 times around before they started the day’s lesson.
However, this project wasn’t just about getting in shape and having fun, it was about doing something good for other people. For each lap the kids counted, their friends and family pledged them a penny, or contributed a non-perishable food item. Step-by-step, coin-by-coin, the donations added up. By the end, they had collectively raised 10,300 pennies (and 75 pounds of food).
Judy Haverkos, co-coordinator for the Gamble-Nippert YMCA program, said the students chose to give their earnings to Santa Maria Community Services. The food went to the Manna Food Pantry. H.A. Musser, Jr., Santa Maria president explained to the group why their efforts were so important.
Did the kids understand they were doing a good thing? Absolutely! “I like helping people,” said Aiden.
“Community service helps teach them character values and teamwork. Coupling that with having fun while being active is really a great teaching tool,” said Cindy Klopp, the other co-coordinator.
The coin project was just one of many enrichment activities for children in YMCA homeschool programs. Haverkos said their group is studying artists, helping the branch ‘go green’, and learning American Sign Language.
Pictured are kids who helped raise money – Victoria Freudiger; Hannah Musser; Oscar Allen; Aiden Bezdek; Samuel Musser; Nathan DeVoe. David and Rose Homelle; Adriana and Alexandria Norton; Mary Nerswick; and Joe Dupont also helped fund raise but weren’t available for the photo.
If you haven’t yet heard about Mattie Stepanek, let me tell you about him. In June 2004, three years before he would have been old enough to drive, he lost his brave battle with a rare and fatal neuromuscular disease.
In his life, he experienced the difficult loss of three siblings. He endured physical, emotional and spiritual pain. But Mattie was an astute young boy who had profound wisdom about things that matter most. He celebrated life every day. He recognized the beauty in everyday circumstance and he lived knowing happiness is never out of reach, if you just look with your heart.
Mattie began sharing his thoughts when he was just three years old. His poems and essays are among the most beautiful I’ve ever read. They are his legacy, his heartsongs.
Believing in Someday
We will all join hands
And live together…
Helping each other,
Loving each other,
We will all make the world
A much better place…
And be like a gigantic,
Smoothly rushing river of peace –
A loving circle that nothing can break,
We may start with just one person,
And one permanent peace agreement
Within one’s self, within one’s world.
Personal peace can then spread
Within and between the families,
Then within and between communities,
And then within and around the whole world.
We can become
As close to perfect
As anything and anyone can get.
Let us each join our own Heartsong
With this old song of the heart, and believe…
“Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me.”
Written in 2000 when Mattie was 9
For parents of children who have physical and/or cognitive disabilities, they know visiting Santa in shopping centers can unfortunately have its challenges. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is helping to ensure all children have the opportunity to enjoy a favorite holiday tradition. CCHMC has brought in a sensitive Santa – straight from the North Pole – who is comfortable talking and interacting with children of all abilities. The Winter Wonderland and Santa Claus event will have entertainment, punch and cookies, and of course photos with none other than Ho Ho Ho himself.
What a wonderful idea!
The event will be Saturday, December 13 from Noon until 4 p.m. at Children’s Hospital (333 Burnet Ave) in the Fifth Third Bank Auditorium. (location D) It is a totally free event with free parking as well. To learn more or pre-register, please call the Family Resource Center at 513-636-7606.
Note: Children attending this event will not be interacting with hospitalized children.
They say friends are those who remain by our side through the good times and the hardships. They’re our crutch when we’ve been knocked down, and our wings when we’re ready to soar. They’re people like Dynette Clark – and Suzy Hummel, Liesl Roeder, and Bridget Kleinhenz, the co-founders of a unique foundation that provides funding for the medical needs of children when parents or guardians don’t have the financial resources or insurance coverage to pay for it.
The idea for Building Blocks for Kids Foundation evolved from one parent, Dynette, wanting more than anything to find $25,000 in assistance for a little girl’s necessary therapy not covered by insurance. The little girl’s mom, Judy, happens to be a close friend of Dynette’s. And, as friends do, Dynette wasn’t about to give up until she had the money in hand.
With the help of Suzy, Liesl, and Bridget, about $12,000 was raised in a 2002 fund raising event. One year later, the foundation had been created to help other kids as well. Seven children where given assistance in its second year, 21 children received funds in the third year, and about 50 kids are being helped annually now with much larger requests.
Some of what the Foundation funds are therapy, modifications to the living environment, programs and devices to help a child interact with his/her world, and mobility such as transportation adaptations. During the holiday season, Building Blocks for Kids has an Adopt a Child program. Pictures and information of children are posted on their website (the first 15 or so kids are those who are on the waiting list for funds) and individuals or groups can help pay for the child’s needs.
For more information on Building Blocks for Kids and their Adopt a Child program, you can visit their web site at www.bb4k.org.
(Pictured: Dynette Clark holding Syndi, standing with Syndi’s mom Judy at the Foundation’s 2003 benefit)
Award winning photographer Andrew Zuckerman traveled to seven countries to ask people over age 65 what they’d like others to know. In his new book, Wisdom, you can read about what they said. The October issue of Reader’s Digest included a few examples, and of those, I have my favorites.
Desmond Tutu (antiapartheid activist, winner of the 1984 Nobel Peace Price and winner of the 2005 Gandi Peace Prize)
“Each one of us can make a contribution. Too frequently we think we have to do spectacular things. Yet if we remember that the sea is actually made up of drops of water and each drop counts, each one of us can do our little bit where we are. Those little bits can come together and almost overwhelm the world. Each one of us can be an oasis of peace.”
Nelson Mandela (civil rights leader, prisoner for 27 years for his antiapartheid work, co-winner of the 1993 Nobel Peace Price, elected South Africa’s first freely chosen president)
“Wounds that can’t be seen are more painful than those than those that can be seen and cured by a doctor. I learned that to humiliate another person is to make him suffer an unnecessarily cruel fate. I learned that courage was not the absence of fear but the triumph over it. I felt fear myself more times than I can remember, but I hid it behind a mask of boldness. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid but he who conquers fear. Where people of goodwill get together and transcend their differences for the common good, peaceful and just solutions can be found, even for those problems that seem intractable.”