Cleveland, WI–Approximately 80 people attended the kick-off event for a “New Friends” program in Cleveland, Wisconsin. We had 41 teen volunteers from Manitowoc Lutheran High School and St. John Lutheran School participate in the event. We had six individuals with special needs attend. Everyone enjoyed the various activities: pumpkin painting, craft activities and flag football. With the windy weather, the hot chocolate and marshmallows were a hit! The state patrol, Cleveland police, Cleveland fire department and the paramedics were available for the children to talk to, which they loved.
The positive feedback from parents included:
“Where did you find these teens?” (sharing their positive impression of the teen volunteers)
“Words cannot express what an awesome day this was.”
“My son does not want to wait another month to meet with his friend again.”
“It was so nice to attend an event where my son was not called a “Freak”.
Jackie Mayer, Community Relations Director for JCM, said that the last comment touched her most, “because that is what her son is called at school and never by his first name. How sad….but very real. … It was so nice to see my son run around without shoes and dig in to the bowl of potato chips and not get looked at differently. He could be himself for a day and get completely accepted by his peers and adults around him.”
The participants also enjoyed the day and are ready for the next event. One boy unpacked his backpack and filled his water jug, put it in the refrigerator and told his mother that he has to get ready to play football with his friends tomorrow. She didn’t have it in her to break his heart and tell him he has to wait a month for the next get together.
It was common to hear the teen volunteers say, “I don’t want to wait until next month to do this again,” “It was just like VBS all over again,” and “I didn’t even know which kids had the disability, we were all one.”
All in all it was a huge success. Jackie shares, “We didn’t have a lot of participants that day, but we all made a difference in someone’s life and that to me is success. My opinion is that this will grow by word of mouth very fast. God truly blessed us and everyone there felt him.”