“We need more kindness, more compassion, more joy, more laughter. I definitely want to contribute to that.” - Ellen DeGeneres. Throughout the semester I did multiple service projects besides the main one of veterans village. One of them was being the official note taker for the 11:15 class period however to me that wasn’t a service project I mean yes I was helping people but it did't take any extra effort. I simply had someone copy the notes and bam I was done. So to me it wasn't enough to see the direct effect it could have on someone so I decided to find another thing to do to make a difference and man did I land the jackpot of all service projects?
I found a group on FSU campus called hang tough. This is a group for families in the Tallahassee area who have a child with a life altered illness or disability. Families can use this as a support group to connect with other parents going through similar situations they can also use it as a fun activity for their kids and as a date night for the parents. I was a volunteer at two events for this foundation during the fall semester the first one was a Halloween event where the kids got to go “trick or treating” and play fun spooky themed games while the parents got to meet with a social working and have small in order to relate and talk about their daily lives.
The other event I am doing is called Santa days this is their biggest event of the year and how the whole program started. They rent out a church for Santa to go to and sterilize the whole interior minimizing germs ensuring that kids with a repressed immune system from treatment can have the experience of sitting on Santa’s lap. Kids are given an appointment time to cut the waiting in line factor out of the whole thing. Wanting to be an elementary school shows my passion for kids I love kids with all of my being and to be able to help kids who’s lives are effected by illness or life-altering conditions truly brightens my day. Working with children is something that I value and that I have since I was a young kid myself. These kids are stronger and face more challenges then I could ever imagine. To be able to take their minds off the aches and pains even if it just for 5 minutes is something that I cherish and can only imagine how much joy it brings the kids to feel as though they are “normal”. To feel like you are accepted for who you are and not have to be worried about what others may think of you or if the area you are in is safe for you is something that these kids don’t get very often, which us sad because I know for fact when I was little I took that as a privilege. To give a safe haven for these kids means the world to them and me but I feel like it means more to their parents. While this program was founded on having fun social activities for kids it has grown into so much more. At every event a social worker is brought in to talk to the parents and allow them to have the open dialog needed when you are going through a hard time. These parents have regular full time jobs but to care for a child with special needs is a job all on its own.
To give parents a break knowing that their kids are safe and ok is a gift that no monetary value would cover. More then anything to see your child be filled with joy and happiness in their eyes is something these parents live for. At more core it is made up of love this project let that shine through more then any other project could possibly allow it to. To give these kids love, hope and happiness shook me to my core and the time spent with these kids is something I will always remember. Hearing the stories of the kids affected by the illness or by the siblings who are they through it all being supportive and taking the back seat some days are stories I will cherish forever. While I plan to work with children in a school setting it most defiantly made me curious into exploring the possibility of working in a hospital setting. This project made me realize that I really do love working with kids and that I am looking forward to helping children for the rest of my life.