I have the honor of helping out the Metro area Special Olympics tennis team for various events and clinics throughout the year. Recently, I was helping out with a tennis clinic and had the pleasure of having my son join me. Seeing him interact with the participants made me think about the importance of our children learning how to give back to our community.
I know I've not been the greatest teacher in this area. Sure my kids have helped with gathering shoebox items for Operation Christmas Child, buying presents for the Angel Tree, and dropping money in the offering plate at church and the Salvation Army bucket, BUT that's just not all there is to it. It's less about giving money and things and more about giving our time and sharing our talents with others. Volunteering takes the experience of giving to a whole new level. That's where the magic happens!
I've seen a wonderful example lately of our young people in action. I assisted with the Special Olympics Tennis Tournament here in Charlotte and what an incredible event it was! Over 50 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities participated. What was truly amazing was the amount of volunteer participation. There were just as many volunteers as there were participants, of which half were high school students. Seeing this many young people interacting one-on-one with the participants was quite touching.
I've spent most of my life working in the human service field and have seen first hand the impact volunteers can make, not only in enhancing others' lives, but also the difference it makes in their own lives. Volunteering our time helps break down the barriers and walls of the stigmas associated with people with disabilities or even people from a different culture or socioeconomic background for that matter. It dispels myths and misconceptions that are based on assumptions or others' perceptions. You would be surprised at the number of people that are fearful or afraid to speak to someone just because they've never had any knowledge or personal interaction with someone with a disability or from another culture. Some of the best lessons in life are learned when we are taken out of our comfort zones. These new experiences are a crucial part of the education that is needed for everyone to truly be integrated into society.
Kudos to Ardrey Kell High School! Their Knights in Action Program is a perfect example of how we can support our youth and stress the importance of giving back to our community. This voluntary community service project recognizes students with an award when they complete 25 or more hours of community service for all 4 years of attendance. This program has tremendous success and is frequently recognized throughout the Charlotte area.
The rewards are endless when we touch lives through the giving of our time. So let's rise to the occasion by being good stewards, and provide encouragement and support of these opportunities and for the causes that touch our hearts.
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