“I have never known a man like you.”
— Hector, a fourth-grader at T.A. Sims Elementary School, speaking to his mentor
This month we celebrate the 10th anniversary of Kids Hope USA, our mentorship program with T.A. Sims Elementary — and withWilliam James Middle School, as some of our volunteers opted to “move up” with the kids to maintain this connection. As this dedicated group of mentors gathered to begin a new year — and a new decade — of mentorships, they sang “Happy Birthday” as they blew out 10 candles (plus one more to grow on!) and gave thanks for the privilege of sharing their time and their lives with some of the sweetest, kindest, and most grateful children one could ever hope to meet, according to Gay Ingram, Kids Hope Coordinator. “We also dedicated this milestone year to every child and volunteer, both past and present,” she added, “to Dr. Bruster; Nancy Tully; and the memory of Troy Fuller, Frances Smith, Brandon Martin, and Ralph Dalton.”
Kids Hope USA confronts head-on the harsh realities facing a population of children who have no control over their own circumstances. By focusing on building caring relationships — one child, one hour, one church, one school at a time — Kids Hope seeks to help at-risk children realize their worth as individuals and helps them become better students.
Describing Kids Hope as “a remarkable experience for both the children at T.A. Sims and the volunteers from our church who have lovingly supported this ministry in so many different ways,” Ingram says that this investment of love and time by our Kids Hope volunteers has made a real difference in these young lives — and a difference she believes will be lasting. “It’s not always easy to measure the extent of those differences,” she adds, “but in their own special way, the children always let us know.”
- One fourth-grade boy said to his mentor, “I have never known a man like you.”
- An 11th-grader who was in Kids Hope during his third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade years sent an email to the national Kids Hope office to ask if they could help him find his mentor. He wanted to talk to her to tell her something.
- During Christmas break, one boy dressed for school, and when his Mother reminded him that it was a holiday, he replied, “But it’s Wednesday and my mentor always comes to see me on Wednesdays.”
Ingram says that while stories and comments like these have been in steady supply throughout our 10 years of Kids Hope, nothing is more telling of how much this program means to the children it serves than the big smile on a child’s face upon seeing his or her mentor at the classroom door on mentoring day.
And here’s the rest of the story.
It doesn’t take much imagination to recognize the value and impact of adult volunteers on our Kids Hope children. It means so much to them to have a mentor from our church arrive each week to spend some time with them. These are children who don’t get much special attention from the other adults in their lives, and this one-on-one time with a mentor is a tremendous gift to offer them each week.
Our Kids Hope mentors, however, will tell you that the gift received is by far greater. Most of them say that they gain even more from their experience than the children do. Many say it is one of the most fulfilling 50 minutes of their week. And perhaps the clearest testimony to this mutual value received is that although mentors are only asked for a one-school-year commitment, between 87 and 92 percent of them return the following year — and many for several years thereafter.
Since its beginning, Kids Hope has made this life-changing difference for 93 students and 158 volunteers in our partnership with T.A. Sims. Working with the same kids year after year — and each year adding new ones — we pair approximately 40 kids and adult mentors every school year. “If you were to multiply the number of volunteers by the number of years served, you would get an idea of the exponential years of service invested in this program,” Ingram says. This vital ministry always welcomes new adult mentors, and any time makes the perfect time to begin! All it takes is 50 minutes a week to make a difference in the life of a child — and, most likely, in your own life as well. Contact Gay Ingram (firstname.lastname@example.org) at 817/999-8075 to sign up or for more information.