At a recent event, a young man who had aged out of the foster care system, when asked what could make an impact on kids in foster care, he simply said to let them be kids. What a moment. Foster Arizona started Kid Connection Events over three years ago with a mission to provide a fun space for kids to be kids and to provide safe spaces for impactful connections. Since the start, we have focused on growing these events to support as many kids in care as possible, knowing that letting them just be kids, makes an impact…and alas…that commitment confirmed.
From video games, bumper cars and bowling to hours of laughter, smiles and memories…that’s what the our latest Kid Connection Event at Jake’s Unlimited looked like for 125 kids in the Arizona foster care system. Fifty volunteers spent the morning with these kids doing what every kid does best…playing and having a good time.
At the start of every event, we do an orientation with our volunteers and ask those in the group that have volunteered with us before to raise their hands. Why is this important? It does 3 different things. It encourages those that are volunteering for the first time by seeing our “return supporters”, knowing that their experience has the potential to tug at their hearts and keep them coming back. It shows our multi-time volunteers that we continue to grow our reach and engage new audiences and equally importantly, it gives us the opportunity to give them an extra shout out of thanks for their continued support.
This particular event was a first for us in a unique way. It was the first time we hosted both kids living in group home settings alongside kids in foster and kinship placements. We had so many conversations leading up to the event about how to ensure that these kids felt equal…felt loved…and felt, not only like they could connect with their hosts, but also that they could connect with other kids that are going through a similar experience. After a few bumps and bruises, we conquered the morning. Our amazing volunteers continue to step up to the plate and make a huge difference in how our events flow and how memories are made.
I started this blog with a story of a young man, and I’ll end it with a story of an even younger man reminding me why we need to continue what we’re doing. A young woman walked into Jake’s Unlimited with three little ones, all under the age or 7 or 8. I greet her, turn to the adorable tiny humans and say… “Who’s Excited?!?!” In less than 1-second, smiles and squeals of joy erupted (just one of the best parts of what we do). I turn to the foster mom and she proceeds to tell me that these little ones are siblings and they know that they’re youngest brother, who is in a different foster placement, is also supposed to be there that morning, whom they have not seen in many months. Well – that sets everything in motion. The next hour was spent anxiously awaiting their sweet baby brother’s arrival. When it’s time to get started, their brother still hasn’t arrived but we promise to find them and bring them their baby brother the moment he arrives. And then it does. Baby brother arrives and the absolute sweetest reunion fills the air and the hearts of everyone honored enough to witness it. Sprinting from a distance these innocent kiddos rejoice and spend the next hours wearing out our volunteer hosts in the sweetest, most “worth every moment” kind of a way.
This is just one of many moments we, as Foster Arizona volunteers, are blessed to experience.
Those siblings…that young man who aged out…they are why we do what we do. And they are why we need you too. If you have not joined us yet, I encourage you to reach out and volunteer. I promise, there will be a moment that moves you. And I can’t wait to be there when it does.
Foster Arizona Team Lead