The first charity I really remember having any sustained involvement with was Youth For Easter Seals. I just googled it and it looks like that division of the Easter Seals doesn’t exist anymore, though Easter Seals definitely does.
Easter Seals provides services for people with autism and other disabilities. When I was volunteering with them, autism wasn’t as recognized as it is now, so I remember dealing primarily with kids with Down’s Syndrome. I was around 14 or so when I and some friends took a group of disabled kids to Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus. My friend’s older brother played chauffeur.
Looking back, I was too young to deal with the challenges that taking care of disabled kids and young adults entailed. I remember my charge needed to go to the bathroom and I was terrified that I would do something wrong. I also had no idea if the kid I was assigned to could have snacks of if I needed to regulate her sugar intake. I don’t remember getting any training, but that seems unlikely, doesn’t it? I must just not remember. Everyone survived, but I felt like it was too much responsibility and I was too scared that I would screw up.
However, when I look back on it now, I realize there wasn’t much that could have gone wrong and while I felt burdened, I also learned early on that it’s so easy to give back. It really takes so little to make a difference in someone’s life. There’s no minimum required. Whether it’s giving to the homeless person in front of the grocery store, teaching kids to read, coaching a youth sports team or serving on a board, the one thing I’ve learned is that you can always find some charity that needs your help that will work with your schedule and you can give as little or as much as you want. The other great think I’ve realized is that any time I spent volunteering, I somehow got back in spades.
March 30: Easter Seals
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