Teen Volunteers Show Dedication to Their Buddies
There was something about her, something different in her expression. Dressed in a green “Allie’s Summer Camp” T-shirt, she wore the same uniform as the other teen volunteers walking around the amusement park on a recent summer morning. And, like them, her buddy was a child with special needs.
What set her apart was the look in her eyes as she sat down in the metal seat of the helicopter ride. It was a shimmer, a brightness—a sparkle that hinted at some wondrous secret, a light that shone from somewhere deep inside her soul.
Call it care.
Call it devotion.
Call it tenderness.
For those few moments, as the teen sat nestled beside a young girl wearing a lime-green shirt, it was as if nothing else mattered.
As the amusement park ride began to take flight, the child started to get nervous. Looking to ease her friend’s fear, the teen put her arm around her and reassured her that they were safe. Seconds later, they were both smiling, relaxed and enjoying the wind against their faces as they sped around and around.
This moment, multiplied by dozens of similar interactions, remains at the heart of Allie’s Summer Camp. The aim of the program, as with all Friendship Circle programs, is to provide children with special needs entertaining activities while offering meaningful opportunities to teen volunteers.
“It is honestly amazing to watch a week of camp, and the dedication of the volunteers who go above and beyond to bring smiles to the kids,” says FC camp director Chavi Rosenblum.
Ask the many volunteers why they set aside a week to help at the camp and you’ll likely hear an echo of what returning volunteer Renata Curcio says: “I think it’s cool and fun, and I want to make sure they have a good time.”
Probe deeper and you’ll likely come away with another conclusion.
“I feel like this is a really valuable way to spend my time,” says Adam Branovan. “It’s nice for the kids to have a place to be with other kids and to give parents a break.”
While those who attend the camp, which is open to children and teens with special needs and their siblings, certainly gain from their time with FC volunteers, the opposite is also true.
As the parent of a volunteer described, “My daughter thrives when she works at Friendship Circle. They bring out her natural talents, and her love and appreciation for the kids.”
Research suggests that teens who perform “meaningful” acts of volunteerism—acts that directly help others—are more likely be communal leaders, problem-solvers and have a stronger sense of self-worth.
At the end of the day, however, teens who volunteer for Allie’s Camp, be it summer or winter, are devoted to a single goal: ensuring that their special friend—whether for the day, the week or the year—is happy and thriving.