SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Ten Slippery Rock University students and an adviser are spending part of their summer helping youngsters enjoy their visit to Give Kids the World Village in Orlando, Fla., and finding the volunteer work is simultaneously changing their lives.
“The nine SRU undergraduates and a graduate student spent three days at the village, a non-profit organization that works to fulfill wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses and their families, as part of our Carebreak program,” said Brad Kovaleski, director of SRU’s Center for Student Involvement and Leadership. The CSLI sponsors a series of Carebreak programs involving service learning trips to various U.S. cities throughout the year.
“The Carebreak at Give Kids the World Village has been a truly humbling experience,” wrote Sydney Carter, an SRU public health major from Verona, as part of a website blog detailing students’ experiences. “Today I worked with children and had a chance to have a ‘BFF’ [best friend forever] for the day. We got to play together and then perform a kids’ version of ‘American Idol.’ The non-profit organization really does go above and beyond for the families. The families really enjoy themselves and get a chance to escape from all of the stress and worries. Working with the children hands on and meeting the families has been a blast.”
Tracey McPherson, an SRU therapeutic recreation major from Tarentum, wrote, “I was placed at the horse riding area. I was responsible for assisting the children while they rode horses around the track. This was a great experience for both me and for all of the children. It was rewarding to see the joy on their faces, and it made me happy to know that I played a part in creating their wonderful experience.”
“I am extremely grateful to have been able to experience this opportunity. Today was the first day of volunteering and the experience has been amazing thus far. The families are very kind and appreciative of what the facility and volunteers do for their families. I cannot wait for the second day of volunteering,” wrote Jahmara Marchman, a political science major from Aliquippa.
The village trip, co-sponsored by SRU’s President’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Diversity and President’s Commission on Disability Issues, is a first for the CSIL.
Participating students received support donations from family, friends and hometown sponsors.
The students spent split shifts helping visiting families at the various theme parks in Orlando. All-told, the SRU volunteers provided nearly 265 hours of service. Their work included helping serve breakfast and dinner, driving a whimsical train through the village and guiding horses while the children rode.
The village is 85 percent volunteer run. “Without the dedication of long-term volunteers and the eagerness of groups like the one from SRU, the village would not be able to function as it does. We are really pleased our students are able to lend a hand,” Kovaleski said.
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.