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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Booths and Buddies

Every year our school hosts the Special Olympics. It is a huge event with hundreds of elementary student competitors. The teacher who coordinates it is AMAZING! And this is just one of the many huge projects she takes on each year.

In order to make this event a success, we need a ton of student volunteers. These volunteers generally fall into two categories: Booths and Buddies.

The Booths are activities the competitors can engage in when they are not actively participating in an event. Many of the school's sports teams and organizations create and staff booths.

The other category is Buddies. Buddies are high school students who are paired with an Olympian competitor for the day. Buddies are essential. These volunteers make sure the competitors have a great day in every way.

Without Buddies, it would not be possible to ensure that every competitor made it to their events on time. It would not be possible to make sure every competitor had someone cheering for them. It would not be possible to manage the sheer volume of kids!

Unlike other years though, this year, we have had a dearth of volunteers. When the teacher in charge told me how many volunteers she was short, I was shocked.

She told me she expected 250 competitors, but she only had 85 Buddies who had turned in permission slips.
That is unacceptable to me. We talked about why there were so few and what we could do. She told me she wasn't sure about the why, but we deduced the timing (just before Spring Break) might account for the low numbers (she distributed 400 permission slips).

The due date for permission slips has passed, but she has decided to accept them this week to get more kids on board.

I decided to make it my personal mission to recruit kids.

I made a huge pile of permission slips and stood in the hall before school and between classes. I tagged every kid that I know.

And this really cool thing happened: Not one kid said no. Not one kid complained about the $10 donation (for a T-shirt and a day out of classes).

Every kid said something positive. I heard "Oh, I wanted to do this last year!" and "I have this, I forgot to turn it in" and "This sounds cool."

Tons of them asked me when it was due and where to turn it in. A few had questions about what they would be doing. One or two promised to get friends involved.

The cherry on this awesomeness sundae was one particular kid. He is a Junior now and though I see him once in a while and he is a generally good kid, I didn't really expect him to be that into it.

When I ran into him, I didn't have any permission slips in hand. I mentioned I would probably be in the copy room later and didn't think anything of it. I forgot I had a meeting in another part of the building, but I didn't really think he would come looking for me.

But he did. Twice. And when I ran into him again, he asked for two permission slips. One for him and one for his best friend.

It will be a couple of days before I know how many of these kiddos will follow through. I am, however, hopeful.

I just can't get over how positive and giving the vast majority of our students are. Some days, I kind of want to kill them, they irk me so. Then there are days like today. Days like today make it worth the aggravation to teach teenagers. And that is a good thing.

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