NEWARK, NJ - There is no doubt that Pass it Along’s “Tilly’s Kids” program has brought many smiles to the faces of both volunteers and a group of underserved, elementary-aged children from Newark. Pastor Tilly is a pastor at the House of Mercy Mission in Newark, New Jersey and she works with Pass it Along to develop mentoring programs.
Once or twice every week throughout the entire summer thus far, Pass it Along volunteers from various high schools in Sussex County met this extraordinary group of children at either Pastor Tilly’s home in Byram or at Swartswood State Park to create “camp days” for the children.
Each day, a volunteer was assigned a “buddy group” which included two to four children who were their “buddies” for the day. Each buddy group spent the day together and followed a fun-filled schedule. A typical day in this program:
- greet the excited children when they arrive from Newark on their bus,
- teach them how to swim and overcome their fears of jumping into the water,
- serve them lunch,
- take them to class, and
- run around and play with them during free time.
The class time often included lessons on animals, entertaining and educational science experiments, and reading. The free time included helping the children learn to ride bikes, having a pretend tea party with some of the little girls, and shooting some hoops with some of the boys.
The Pass it Along volunteers had many empowering experiences. One student taught a young girl how to swim. Before she left, she thanked her buddy and said, “ I could never have learned to swim without you!”
Lenny Fontes, a junior at Sparta High School, said, “It's amazing how people with so little can be so happy. The smiles and positive outlooks from even the youngest of kids continues to inspire and change my life with every visit with Tilly's Kids.”
Dani Dellamo, a junior at Sussex Tech, said, “Although I only got a chance to participate for one day in Tilly’s Kids this summer, the program instantly reminded me of how much of a positive impact service has on people’s lives and how rewarding volunteering truly is. This program will continue to inspire me to help everyone I can and go along with my journey in Pass it Along.”
Next week, for the final day of the Tilly’s Kids program, each child will receive a donated backpack filled with donated school supplies for the upcoming school year. Volunteers, Pass it Along, and Tilly’s Kids all hope to continue their relationships throughout the school year in other events and through other programs.
Volunteers learned what it means to be a role-model and the children carry the lessons they learned and the new friendships they created home with them. This program definitely shows that no matter what walks of life people come from, a fun and rewarding day in the sun can never go to waste.
Editor's Note: Melissa Terhune is an AP English student at Sparta High School where she is in the National Honor society and plays on the tennis team.