Archive for the ‘Children’ Category

Operation Feed the Children:  The Sequel

For those of you that have followed my blog(and have an excellent memory), you may recall my post about a particular day in South Africa.  On that day I approached the building project manager, Deen and asked him what I could do to help the children.  He looked at me and said “If you really want to help them and make them happy, you must get them food”.  I listened to his advice, bought and prepared lunch for all the children at the building site.

The pure joy and happiness in the children’s faces while they were eating lunch is something that still resonates with me today.  For that reason, a few weeks ago I decided to make a donation to Deen to buy the children food.  The volunteers at the site prepared the food in a similar fashion and the results were the same.  The results are best explained by an excerpt from the Projects Abroad blog below:

“Less than a year ago I had been most fortunate to be associated with a remarkable volunteer Jonathan Verpent who again donated funds for food which would be distributed to the kids at the crèche on the building site. This had been the highlight of two weeks spent at the adventures of the building project. Receiving heart-warming smiles from the children in those three days spent giving out food and drinks was the most incredible feeling that reminded me of the true happenings in the heart of the building project.”

I wish I could have been there to deliver the food in person, but the the pictures below will have to do.  Special thanks to Deen and his son Vash for putting this together and executing my idea.

Volunteers preparing lunch

Volunteers preparing lunch




Happy Children!

Link to my article in the Projects Abroad Newsletter

projects abroad news letter


On August 17th I embarked on the journey of a lifetime to Cape Town, South Africa for two weeks.  I thought the trip would have been all about building a community center.  To be honest, the actual community center was secondary.  It was a ray of hope and provided a sense of community for the locals.  It was about being a positive influence on the young children, who have experienced more hardship in their short lives than most do in their lifetimes.  It was about helping out the stray dogs, and “adopting” them on the site as if they were our own.  Although my time there was short, I know I had a positive influence on the children, dogs, volunteers, and the building site in general.

My time in South Africa was nothing short of life changing.  The bonds I made with the other volunteers, my house family, Deen, and the children are everlasting.  I will never forget the times I had and will ensure I let the moments I shared have a positive influence on my life and others around me.

I could have not asked for a more amazing end to my journey to 30 Deeds over the past year.  However, in reality, it is not the end of the journey….It is  just the beginning of a lifetime dedicated to giving.


Deen and I

I woke up today with mixed emotions.  I was excited to work hard yet sad because it was my last day.  I did not know how I was going to say goodbye to the volunteers and children I formed a close bond with over the last few weeks.  None the less, I ate my breakfast and headed out the door for the final day.

When I arrived on site, the volunteers and I quickly got to work.  We mixed cement and started “prettying” up certain areas as we had done in previous days.  Unfortunately, after about 45 minutes, it started to rain..and then rain..and then rain some more.  If you have read my previous posts, you may realize that this is a very common occurrence during the month of August in Cape Town.  Undeterred, I ran inside to spend time with the children.  They were watching a movie and I joined them to try and get a few more smiles out of them before leaving.


Deen telling his infamous stories

Before leaving the site, Deen gathered all the volunteers to speak about myself and Jomo, who was also leaving that day.  Deen started off with stories and fatherly advice for both of us, before allowing each volunteer to say something to each of us.  It is a tradition for Deen that all volunteers have the pleasure of experiencing before leaving.  I also got to say a few words and thanked everyone for accepting me as if I were family.  I headed back home for my final dinner with my amazing house family before starting my long journey home tomorrow morning.


Happy Children enjoying lunch

A few days ago while working, I had the idea that I wanted to do something more for the kids at the building site.  I approached Deen with a few ideas: get  kids a ball, crayons and paper..something to help them socialize and stimulate their mind.  Deen looked at me and said “If you really want to help them and make them happy, you must get them food”.  I trusted Deen’s word and decided to buy food for all the children


Food Supplies


Lots of Sandwiches!

Fast forward to today, I woke up early and headed to the grocery store with Deen.  I bought makings for about 50 sandwiches, a pack of 50 crackers, and  pack of 50  cookies.  We drove back to the job site and worked all morning: mixing cement and laying more of the foundation.   Mid morning, a few volunteers and I started made all the sandwiches. We brought them over to the kids along with a pack of crackers and pack of cookies for each.  After giving them the food, I have never seen them so quiet and content.   As always, Deen was right and the kids were happy!  The leftovers were given to the men and women who work at the daycare center to eat and distribute to others in the area.  Operation “Feed the Children” was a success!


Today, as usual, I spent an equal amount of time building as I did with the kids.  I mixed cement and continued plastering the wall from last week.  It was a beautiful day and the children were happy and crazy as the usually are (so was I).  Over the last week, I noticed they all love swinging in the swings but are not very good at sharing.  Each day is filled with constant arguments over who gets the swings.  I came up with a system that each child gets pushed 10 times before switching and they all have to count out loud.  It seemed to work and it was a good learning experience for some of them too!


Happy Swinging! If you look close, you can see the girl in the background counting!

Unfortunately this beautiful day was marred by a darker side of township life.  A group of kids, the oldest probably about 10 and the youngest about 4 brought a cat into the bush behind the job site.  While there, they either let the pit bull that was with them maul the cat or they killed it themselves.  As an animal lover it makes me angry, but dog fighting and gangs are just a way of life in the townships(albeit a sick one).  It does help me realize how important Deen and the volunteers are in the children’s lives to help make sure they don’t grow up on the wrong side of the law.

In more positive news, when I got home, I brought the soccer ball out for the kids in the neighborhood and played for a few hours. I left it with the kids when I went to get dinner at night and they played past dark before returning the ball.  All the kids seemed happy so day 1 with the soccer ball was a success!



View from the Island


Tour Guide who was a former prisoner at Robben Island


View of Nelson Mandela’s tiny cell. The red bucket was his “toilet”.

While visiting South Africa, I felt it was important to learn more about the history of the country to truly appreciate where it is today.  I decided to take a trip to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his life locked away under harsh conditions.  For much of his stay, he slept on  a small mat, used a bucket as  toilet, and was forced to do hard labor.  It is amazing that a man who spent a large portion of his life behind bars, was able to get out and become an instrumental piece in the resurrection of South Africa.  I am very happy I decided to take a trip there and certainly have a greater appreciation for where the country is today.

Before heading home, I stopped in a local sports shop to pick up a soccer ball for the kids that live in the neighborhood where I am staying.  Yesterday, I noticed that they were kicking rocks and tennis balls back and forth to stay entertained so I wanted to do something about it.  Soccer and rugby are the biggest sports here, so a soccer ball was a natural choice.  I also played soccer growing up so I am looking forward to playing with them tomorrow!

When I arrived home I spent the rest of the day with my host family and other volunteers.  My host mother brought out a cake and everyone sang Happy Birthday to the old man :).  Between being humbled by the trip to Robben Island and the celebration with some of the most amazing people I have met, it was quite possibly my best birthday to date.

I start my second week of volunteering tomorrow, more humbled than ever, but just as excited as when I first arrived.


View of Cape Town from the ferry on the way back.

Why half day Friday?  It is not because the volunteers want to leave early or because Deen wants to give us a break.  It is because the residents in the township tend to start partying a little early on Friday and it starts to become unsafe.  Even though the day was cut short, it was still a good productive day.




An everyday activity with most of the children. Love her smile in this picture!

The volunteers and I spent time plastering the wall we worked on yesterday.  In what is becoming a recurring theme, I also spent a lot of time with the children.  We played in the playground and I ran around like a big kid, playing games and making them laugh.

While we were at the site, a woman in her early 30’s  had a heart attack/stroke in her home next to the building site. (I later found out that she was the mother of one of the children at the site)  Deen, being the amazing man he is, jumped into action and rushed her to the hospital.  By the time he got her to the hospital she was unconscious and remains in critical condition. Unfortunately crazy things like this are more common than uncommon here.

After the day of work, all the building volunteers went to Deen’s house for dinner. His wife made an amazing meal and we laughed and had a great time.  His talented sons (Vash and Nash) provided the entertainment by singing, playing piano and the drums.  Also providing entertainment were 9 puppies.  Deen rescued a female dog from the building site and brought it home.  The dog met his Siberian Husky and one thing led to another…yadad yada yada… 9 puppies!

After being stuffed with food, we all sat around listening to Deen tell stories about former volunteers.  The love and joy in his face when talking about other volunteers can light up even the darkest streets.  He has been a mentor to the younger volunteers throughout the last 3 years, and even though it has been a week, he has taught me a lot and I feel like I have known him my whole life.




With my favorite puppy!

Today, I spent the day building a wall..maybe not “the great wall of South Africa”, but a wall none the less.  The process really is quite simple.  Step 1: fill the bags with sand.  Step 2: lay down cement.  Step 3:  Place sand bags on cement  Step 4 place cement on bags Step 5: repeat steps 1-4 step 6: plaster the sides and tada!  A wall!

The Great Wall of South Africa

The Great Wall of South Africa

I also spent a large part of today playing with the children again.  Since it was nice weather, we were able to play on the playground at the site. One thing I noticed today about the children is that they are all sick.  Every single one of them had a runny nose and was coughing.  They are all staying in a small room so when one gets sick, they all get sick I suppose.  Either way, we still had a great time and I am looking forward to finishing the wall tomorrow.



As the title indicates, the day was filled with rain.  Weather in cape town is a bit sporadic.  It is bright and sunny one minute and pouring rain the next.  The few times the sun came out, we mixed cement and did our best to add onto the foundation.  Our efforts may have been futile as I don’t think it will dry very well by tomorrow.

View of the Building Site

View of the Building Site

The good thing about the rain is that it let me spend more time with the kids.  What kids you ask?  There is a day care center right in the same complex as the building project.  I spent time doing what I do best: acting like a kid..making funny faces and noises, lifting them up in the air to the ceiling, tying shoes, and anything else I could do to make them happy.  These children crave attention and immediately latch onto you when they see you.  I was told it is because they do not get it from home so they look for it from volunteers like myself.  It is quite sad but I will make sure to give plenty of love the rest of the time I am here!

Day Care Center

Day Care Center


The kids and Jomo from England.

I woke up early on a beautiful Saturday morning from the comfort of my bed in Hoboken, NJ and headed JFK airport.  I was filled with mixed emotions.  I was not looking forward to the long flight but was excited to get to Cape Town.  After a few complications and missed connections, 27 hours later, I arrived at the airport in Cape Town to head to what would be my home for the next 2 weeks.


View from my host family’s home

Immediately after leaving the airport I was struck by the beauty and poverty of Cape Town.  Cape town is surrounded by mountains and is just plain gorgeous.  After living in a city and working in New York City, not being surrounded by concrete and steel was quite refreshing.  However in between the beauty of the mountains is extreme poverty.  I have seen and experienced poverty in America, but this was just on another level.  It was just shack after shack after shack as far as your could see.  There are no bathrooms and there is no running water.  Some of the lucky residents have a single toilet similar to a “Port-o-John” that they are able to use.  I tried to mentally prepare myself for the poverty before the trip, but to be honest, it was hard to witness first hand.


My bed for the next 2 weeks

After I finally arrived, I met my host family and the rest of the volunteers. Everyone was very nice and interested in my background.   There are 6 other volunteers staying at the home from all over the world England, Japan, Canada, Germany, and Holland.  I am staying in a bunk bed, and sharing a bathroom, which feels a bit like college…just without the heat. It gets down into the 40’s at night in the winter so it gets quite cold.  Either way, the accommodations are better than I anticipated.  After a brief conversation with my host family and other volunteers,  I headed to my bunk bed early to prepare for the all day orientation I have tomorrow.

On August 17th I embarked on a journey of a lifetime to Cape Town, South Africa for two weeks.  I had never traveled outside the country, and to be honest, was a bit nervous.  I was to stay with a local family who would provide me with meals.  When I was not home, I would spend my days during the week volunteering by helping build a community center in an underprivileged area outside Cape Town.  Other than that, I did not know much about my trip.  Was the area I was staying safe?  Were there other volunteers at the house?  What will they feed me?(as a fat kid at heart, this question was important)  What will the community center be used for?  How long have they been building it?  What will the other volunteers be like?  How else can I help?  Among many others.  Throughout the journey all my questions would be answered and my concerns would be addressed.

I went into this trip assuming it would just be about building a community center.  I soon discovered that it was much much more.

KEEN is a national, nonprofit volunteer-led organization that provides recreational opportunities for children and young adults with developmental and physical disabilities.  They get children involved in a variety of different activities and basketball2sports, including basketball.

I arrived at Attucks Park in Brooklyn on a gorgeous Saturday morning.  There were plenty of volunteers and lots of children running around having a good time.  After 20 minutes of free time, the athletes were gathered together and separated into three groups.  Each group completed a different drill: shooting, dribbling, and passing.  I spent most of my time with a boy named Julio.  He was a happy kid with tons of energy.  We spent time on the court participating in drills, chasing each other around the court, and having a ball of laughs.  After basketball, we went to the playground next to the court and did more of the same.

For me, this deed was a full circle of sorts.  The first time I volunteered was for a program called “Buddy Ball” in my home town when I was in high school.  Buddy Ball is a sports program for children with disabilities.  It was at that time that I picked up the volunteer bug and knew I wanted to make a difference in the world.  It just took me some time to get back into it.

With 29 deeds completed it is onto number 30 and beyond!

I have been in sales for the past 8 years, so making phone calls is something that comes natural to me.  You may be asking..”Why is that important and what does it have to do with a deed?”  Great question!  I signed up to help make phone calls for an organization called Fresh Air Funds.  The amazing organization sends children from low income neighborhoods in NYC on free vacations/camps throughout the country. For some children, this is the first opportunity they have to leave the city.IMG957016

I arrived at the Fresh Air Fund’s office in NYC after a day of work.  There were 6 other volunteers that joined the program that night.  I was given a list of about 60 names, a script, and a bit of coaching from the team leader.  Soon after, I sat down and started calling!  It was my job to call the parents of children to remind them about the date, time, and place they needed to drop their children off for a sleep away camp.  I spent about 2 hours on the phone, going through the list and providing important details to the parents.

This particular deed may not have been the most hands on or involved deed, but it was still quite important.  The organization stays afloat because of volunteers and donations.  It does not receive any government funding.  If you would like to donate so you can help provide a great experience for a child, you can do so at the link below (I did!).

Donate Here!

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For those of you that know me or have been following my progress, you know I currently live in Hoboken, NJ.  While it is important to volunteer or give back anywhere I believe it is especially important to help in your local community.  I came across an organization called “Party with a Purpose” which was quite intriguing.  Party with a purpose is a Hoboken based “not-for-profit organization founded on the concept of producing great events to raise money for charities and bring the community together in the process”.  Since being founded in 2002, they have raised $425,000 to help those in need.


Me, Hollis, and Lily

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Post Race Fun

Each year for the past nine years they have held a 5k to benefit local youth charities, including the Jubilee Center and the Hoboken Boys and Girls Club.   It has grown over the years with over 1400 runners this year raising over $60,000.  I ran(walked) in the race with my friend Hollis and her younger sister.  Her sister is no stranger to walking for a cause after raising money and participating in AIDs walk earlier this year(quite admirable especially for a 14 year old!).  We finished the race in a cool 50 minutes or so while the winner finished in just over 15 minutes.  The time didn’t matter as it was a lot of fun that raised a lot of money for a great cause.

“Un Birthday Party” is a program in an inpatient pediatric unit at New York Methodist hospital.  The unit hosts up to 25 children suffering from ailments such as broken bones, respiratory issues, and recent surgeries.  During the program that runs every other week, children are encouraged to come out of their rooms to play games, eat ice cream, cookies and cupcakes.  The room is decorated and complete with TV’s, a Wii, and other video game systems.

When I arrived, a few children were already in the “party” room enjoying their desserts.  Soon after, I helped deliver gamerkidcookies and cupcakes to a cute 13 month old girl who was taking a nap in her room.  When I walked in the room, she immediately perked up, and followed me to the “party room” with her mother.  I continued to interact with her and other children, playing games and doing my best to make them smile.  While playing a game of UNO with a few children I noticed one little boy, Mario was standing around by himself.  Several people, including myself asked him to play UNO or other games and he refused.  He looked a little down so I decided to do my best to make sure he had a good time.  After attempting to interact with Mario for a while, I finally got him to agree to play with the Wii.  We played Wii sports together with another little girl for a half hour or so.  The kids and volunteers started to clear out but Mario and I still wanted to hang out.  We fired up Nintendo Game Cube and played for another hour until the head volunteer had to go home.

This was yet another project that I really enjoyed and can’t wait to revisit again!


Pool at Asphalt Green

Swimming with Stanley Isaacs is a program with New York Cares that takes place at the Asphalt Green Center in NYC.  The program is designed to teach and encourage children to swim.  I have loved to swim my entire life (and consider myself a good swimmer) so this program was a great fit for me.

On the day I volunteered there were about 15 children and 7 volunteers.  Soon after I arrived, I jumped in the pool and got to work.  I was paired with 4 boys in the shallow pool with various swim levels.  We first started with some kicking drills with a kick board, which then quickly evolved into fun relay races.  After a while, I took the 2 stronger swimmers into the deep end.  I encouraged both of them  to swim laps and supported them along the way.  They both were quite impressive, especially considering it was one boys first time in the deep end!  After a few more games, we got out, dried off, and headed to a pizza place around the corner (I also consider myself a good pizza eater 🙂 ).

I had a great time volunteering and am looking forward to taking part in this program again.  I have mentioned it before, but I will say it again…Volunteering does not have to feel like a chore and can be a lot of fun!

boystirringCulinary Explorers is an after school program for middle school children where they are taught basics of food preparation, focusing on fostering healthy eating habits.  The program runs from January-June, every Tuesday.  Throughout the year the students learn to cook and eat a wide variety of foods.  During the class I attended, the children prepped and cooked sesame chicken and roasted broccoli.  The students took turns mixing the sauce, cutting the broccoli, and glazing the chicken before placing the food in the oven.  Once the food was cooked, I was able to eat a piece of chicken and some broccoli.   It was quite tasty!

Most people that know me might be surprised that I helped with a cooking class.  I had little to no cooking knowledge until college.  After entering college, my cooking skills consisted of making “Easy Mac” and “Chef boyardee” in the microwave.  Since that time, my skills have evolved to cooking bland meats and vegetables.  Needless to say, I was very impressed with the children and the program in general.  Not only did they learn to cook, but they learned that  if prepared correctly, vegetables can be delicious(something I also didn’t learn until a few years ago 🙂 )!  It is a great program, one that I wish I participated in during middle school!

MF10379For years I heard about Alex’s Lemonade Stand and have always wanted to get involved.   For those of you that don’t know about Alex’s Lemonade stand: “Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) emerged from the front yard lemonade stand of cancer patient Alexandra “Alex” Scott (1996-2004). In 2000, 4-year-old Alex announced that she wanted to hold a lemonade stand to raise money to help find a cure for all children with cancer. Since Alex held that first stand, the Foundation bearing her name has evolved into a national fundraising movement, complete with thousands of supporters across the country carrying on her legacy of hope.”  I found out about an amazing story about a young girl raising money with Alex’s Lemonade stand and knew I had to get involved.

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Rebekah and I at her Lemonade stand in East Brunswick, NJ

However, this story really isn’t about me.  It is about an incredible girl named Rebekah.  Rebekah lost her dear friend Tara to cancer at the age of 10.  After Tara’s tragic passing, Rebekah decided she needed to do something to honor her friend.  She started a Lemonade Stand with Alex’s Lemonade to raise money for childhood cancer.  That was 6 years ago.  Every year, since that time she has collected donations and hosted a lemonade stand in East Brunswick, New Jersey.  I made a donation, spent time at the stand, and brought in a few extra customers(my parents and girlfriend).  To date, she has raised over $8,000 with a goal of reaching $10,000 before graduating high school.

Most children that age (including myself) would not have done what Rebekah has, year after year.  It is truly admirable and inspirational.  Hearing her story and witnessing her passion gives me even more motivation to push forward to 30 Deeds and beyond.

Donate to Rebekah and Alex’s Lemonade Stand Here:

When I started this journey, I had two main goals: Complete 30 deeds and motivate as many people as I can to give back.  After an administrator viewed an article about 30 deeds, she contacted me to ask if I would speak to 6th graders at an event at Linwood Middle School (same school I went to as a kid).  To be honest, I was hesitant at first.  I mean, how in the world was I going to relate to 6th graders??  After giving it some thought, and realizing I could potentially impact over 400 children in a positive way, it turned out to be a no brainer.

The table at Linwood Middle School

The table at Linwood Middle School

The event was held in the library of Linwood Middle School.  There were about 6-7 tables set up around the library(trade show style) with other speakers.  There was a woman teaching sign language, a dog that was specially trained to help children with autism, Anthony Starego- a high schooler with autism that kicked the winning field goal and was featured on sportscenter(I remembered the story and was excited to meet him!) among others.  Each group of children spent 5 minutes or so at each table to listen and hopefully learn.

For most of the groups, I asked 2 main questions to the children.  The first question I asked was “What do you think it means to volunteer”? A lot of the responses were similar yet impressive.  Responses included: “to give back”, “to help”, “to work without getting paid”, “to do something kind”, “to do something that helps others in need”, etc.  The second question I typically asked was “Who here has volunteered and what have you done”?  I was pleasantly surprised and impressed that about 75% of the children had volunteered.  Some responses included: a student helping an older woman bag and carry her groceries, shoveling snow and doing yard work for elderly neighbors, a student selling candy around the neighborhood to raise money for Lupus research(his mom has Lupus), a few  children had volunteered for buddy ball(a program to help children with disabilities engage in various sports- I volunteered for this program growing up),  a number of children raised money for the “Pennies for Puppies” program among many others.

Good Deed Card

Good Deed Card

After asking a few questions and engaging the students, I told them a little bit about my story and gave them a small assignment.  They were all given cards (pictured to the right) and had to complete just one good deed before the end of the school year.  I am hopeful that I inspired at least a few of the children to give back now, and in the future!


At the Yankees Game

All my life, I have loved sports and have been a die hard Yankees fan.  I have my own blog (duh 🙂 )  That is why signing up for a Sports Blogging after school program, at a high school in downtown Manhattan was a natural fit.  The “deed” was carried out in two parts over consecutive Saturdays.

Part 1: Attending a New York Yankees Game:  I woke up early on a Saturday morning to travel downtown to meet the students at their high school.  I was greeted by an enthusiastic teacher and the New York Cares team leaders.  The students and volunteers gave a brief introduction before piling onto the subway to head to the game.  They were each equipped with a notepad, camera, and recorder.  It was their “job” to pay attention to the sights and sounds of the game, and my “job” to give them tips and ideas on what to write about.  I spent most of my time with two students named Travis and Raheem.  Both were big sports fans like myself, so we spent our time talking about the game and sports in general.  After a comeback win by the Yankees, we left the game to head back to our respective homes.

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Helping Write the Blog

Part 2:  Writing the blog:  The following Saturday I traveled back downtown to the high school to meet with the same students.  I helped them upload pictures from the cameras and assisted with their posts.  I spent most of my time with Raheem.  He and I are big basketball fans, so outside of helping him with the blog, we spent a lot of time talking about the state of the NBA and who we thought would win in the playoffs.

I know I have mentioned this before, but this is yet another example of how volunteering can be fun instead of a “chore”.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope they bring the program back next year so I can volunteer again!

Read the students blog here: Wolverine Sports Blog

anti-cupcakeI signed up for the project through Jersey Cares called Cupcake Creations.  It is an after school program at the Jubilee Center in Hoboken, NJ that allows children to bake and decorate cupcakes.  The Jubilee Center provides safe, fun activities for children ages 5-12.

I arrived at the Jubilee center and was greeted by about 10 happy children who were inquisitive and engaging.  I am not sure if they were happy because I was volunteering, or happy because I brought funfetti cupcake mix and icing :-).   The kids did most of the baking and the volunteers primarily supervised the process.  They cracked the eggs, took turns stirring, and pouring the mix into the cupcake tray.  While the cupcakes were in the oven, I played basketball and various board games with the children to keep them busy.  When the cupcakes came out of the oven, they started the decoration  process.  Half of the decorations wound up on the table/floor but the kids didn’t seem to mind.  However, one little girl was very meticulous about her decorations and it was no surprise to find out that she was emulating her favorite show, Cupcake Wars.  She was actually quite talented and I enjoyed watching her decorations come together.  All in all, I had a great time with the program and the kids really enjoyed it as well.

I want to be honest and put this out there.  I have never been a big fan of children in large groups.  I would be lying if I said I wasn’t hesitant to sign up for a Saturday morning program to interact with a large group of children.  The program was through New York Cares who partnered with an elementary school in downtown NYC.  There were about 80 children and around 15 volunteers who took part in the programsports_editor.

I spent a few hours playing every sport imaginable with the children.  My day started with basketball, to a relay race, to volleyball, football, baseball, hockey, and dodge ball.  It was completely exhausting.  I have new found respect for teachers(especially gym teachers), parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and anyone else that interacts frequently with children.

With that said, I had the time of my life.  The children were all so happy and engaging.  I was smiling from ear to ear and laughing from the time I got there to the time I left.  The experience completely changed my opinion.  I will definitely be volunteering for the same or similar programs in the future.

Every year around Christmas, my hometown has a program where you can buy gifts for an assigned family.  I have known about it for a few years and this year, I decided to take part in the program.  I was assigned children from 2 sets of families- 4 and 6 year old boys.  8 month and 3 year old girls.  I was given guidance that the girls needed clothes and the boys liked Spiderman and super heroes in general.

Clothes for the girls

Clothes for the girls

As I mentioned in my previous post, buying gifts for children is not exactly my area of expertise.  I can barely dress myself, so I knew I would struggle to buy clothes for the 2 little girls.  I decided to enlist the help of what I will call “one of Santa’s elves”, who has a lot more experience in this area.  The elf was able to help me find matching shirts, pants, jackets, and pajamas in a matter of minutes for the girls.

Gifts for the Boys

Gifts for the Boys

The boys on the other hand, were another story.  As a big kid myself, I share a mutual interest in Superheros.  I was able to find toys, a Spiderman hat and gloves, shirts, and pants rather quickly.

As I have learned throughout the years, the Christmas is all about giving back.  No matter how big or small, every bit helps.  Take some time to reflect and pay it forward this holiday season.