My story is about my son, Jamieson. When he was 12 years old, we moved from Hartford, Vermont to Clearwater, Florida. Jamieson and his brother had to leave behind everything they knew, say good-bye to all of their friends and family and start a new life in a new city. On their first day of school, my husband and I waited with guilt in our stomachs for our sons to come home. What they told us was, unfortunately, pretty much what we had expected: they knew no one and felt very much alone.
Meanwhile, I got involved with the YMCA of Clearwater. In Vermont, we had never had such access to such an organization. I started out working at Belleair Elementary School as a group leader under the direction of wonderful Mattie Herrar. I found that working for an organization that truly stood for helping families was exhilarating. Soon afterward, both my sons began volunteering at the “YREADS” program at Belleair afterschool. And Jamieson’s involvement in that program has made a huge difference in his life.
After the program ended for the year, both of my kids spent their first summer helping out at the YMCA camp at Ponce De Leon Elementary. Jamieson floated from group to group working with different group leaders and getting to know all the children. After the summer was over, he went back to working at the “YREADS” program. Jamieson often speaks of the joy he gets from working with children and watching them learn and grow over the course of the year. I have watched his heart grow bigger and bigger as he worries about a certain child and what kind of day that child is having.
In January 2008, Jamieson’s father was diagnosis with colon cancer. Suddenly the love he had been giving to all these children was given back two-fold by those same children and the program staff.
In May 2008, Jamieson was honored as Volunteer of the Month for the School Age Programs. He continues to give up vacations and days off to work with the YMCA. This summer he worked with me at the Belleair Pre K Camp. It is so funny to see this 6-foot-something man playing with these little campers who are only three to five years old. No matter what course he charts, I know that early on, Jamieson has learned that it is not what we get in life, it is what we give.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was submitted in the Summer of 2008.