I’ve been thinking a lot about the children we were blessed to work with during the four weeks of Camp Hutchison and how we can partner with them year round. We have identified the students who need our help; now we need to identify the volunteers.

I know what many of you are thinking: I don’t have time. The reasons are many and all are valid. A workplace that isn’t around the corner from the school, children or aging parents to care for, days and weeks that are already full of many activities and responsibilities. But I believe that for many of you this will be the most positive thing you do each week and is worth accommodating in your schedule. If you think these children aren’t truly poor or that an hour of your time won’t make a difference, allow me to share a story about a boy who attended Camp Hutchison this summer.

Alex (name has been changed to protect privacy) is a rising first grader at Hutchison and at first glance appears happy, healthy and full of life. Peel back the layers and you realize that Alex’s life is quite different from that of the children in your family or neighborhood. His father is in the process of being deported. His mother recently returned to work in order to provide for her three children, including Alex and his two sisters, ages 3 and 17. But her income is not enough to support the family and as a result they are currently residing in the living room of a friend’s house. They were given until the end of August to find another place to live and are in the process of trying to relocate to a shelter or low-income housing. An already difficult situation became even more challenging when Alex fell ill with bacterial meningitis during the last week of Camp Hutchison. He became extremely sick and was admitted to the hospital, diagnosed, treated and discharged all within a span of two days. Upon returning home from the hospital his mother immediately returned to work; missing work another day simply was not an option. Unfortunately, Alex’s story is not unique. Many of the students at Hutchison are in situations similar to Alex’s. And nearly every student at Camp Hutchison had a story about adversity in their personal life.

When I visited Alex in the hospital I took the game UNO with me. I spent some time teaching him the rules of the game, then we played over and over again. I lost count of how many games we played and each time we finished, in typical kid fashion he asked, “Can we play again?” As a first-time UNO player he didn’t really understand how to play. And he didn’t care. I quickly realized that it wasn’t the game he was enjoying but the attention. Our time together was a distraction from the chaos surrounding him. An opportunity to be a kid.

Regardless of your political and personal beliefs, the fact is these children are not in this situation as a result of their own choices or actions. And they will benefit from your time and attention. I encourage you to strongly consider giving an hour of your time each week to a student at Hutchison. What may seem like a burden now has the potential to become something you look forward to each week and will certainly become something the students look forward to with much anticipation.

-Virginia Turner, Camp Hutchison Co-Coordinator

For more information on how you can volunteer with the Hutchison PALS program visit: https://www.florisumc.org/593993.ihtml.

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