It’s not every day that you get to spend a day at the “happiest place on earth”. But to do so with a great group of kids – now that is a rare experience.
This week my company afforded me a chance to give back by partnering with one of Southern California’s local children’s non-profits; the Walden Family Services group. WFS’s vision is to ensure that “every child has a loving family and the ability to realize their greatest potential towards becoming a self-sufficient and productive member of their community.” The foster kids I met through this group were warm, funny, smart, and kind. It was obvious from the start that even the shiest among them is excited about life and eager to find his/her place in this world.
But what struck me the most was how positive the kids were and, as I learned throughout the day, very aware of their circumstances and the unknowns in their own lives. It is obvious that WFS’s work has a lasting impact. As I learned throughout the day, WSF works to instill the type of personal qualities we should ask of every member of our society – respect, love, friendship, and empathy.
Watching the interaction between the kids and grownups was a great reminder that value should be placed on positive outlooks and innovative thoughts over pessimism and the “doom and gloom” outlook we too often see in everyday life. If any of the kids started to beat themselves down through negative self-evaluation an adult was quick to counter with positive words and a challenge to the kid to see him/herself as worthwhile and precious. Instead of criticizing, they offered support and an open ear. Instead of ultimatums or warnings, they offered advice and counsel.
There really isn’t another place like Disneyland. And as a chaperone, if even for just one day, I got to experience the joy and wonderment of one of America’s most iconic theme parks with this great group of kids. And I have to say that there isn’t much that can stand up to the satisfaction of watching a child’s face light up as he eagerly awaits to shoot down Splash Mountain or the dizzying thrill of riding in an Alice in Wonderland’s teacup. (I’ll admit I may have gotten a bit competitive on that ride and really spun the dickens out of that cup).
But what I really loved was a simple day that reminded me of what matters. I can only hope that the kids I met through this group will find a ready home; one full of love, support, and comfort. If asked to participate again, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second before responding with a resounding “yes!”
The trip was co-sponsored by the HOPE Foundation, a 501(c)3 certified non-profit that partners with existing non-profits to help raise money and awareness for causes that matter. (Founded in 2007)