When can an infinite amount of ice cream, candy,whipped cream, sprinkles and cherries make a differencein a child’s life? It’s when unfortunate circumstanceshave caused them to realize the value of the littlethings in life.
Spring break for college students usually consists oftraveling to Cancun with friends, partying and forgettingall about school work. Contrastingly, for twelvegenerous St. John’s students from the Queens andStaten Island campuses, it was donating their time tochildren who have been born with life-threatening illnessesthrough the Give Kids the World program.Twelve student leaders representing seven differentsororities from both campuses flew to Florida in orderto spend time with these children and make their day alittle brighter.
“I see a young girl who is eating an ice cream sundaelook up at her father and say ‘this is the life’,” saidChad Sandifer, the Greek advisor from the StatenIsland campus. “How does a child so young understandwhat it takes many people a lifetime to understand?”Give Kids the World is a non-profit resort in CentralFlorida that works to makes wishes come true for childrenwith terminal illnesses. Mary Pelkowski, theDirector of Leadership Development at St. John’s,brainstormed the idea with DePaul University this pastsummer and proposed that St. John’s participate.
Theyapplied for an application process on Labor Day of lastyear and shortly after, it was approved and generouslysupported by Student Government Inc.”We wanted to do whatever we could to make thefamilies happy,” Pelkowski said. “The child was themain focus.”
The children in the program ranged from infants to16 years of age. The students involved also got to knowthe families of the children and each child’s unique situation.The volunteers not only made ice cream sundaeswith them but played basketball, made arts andcrafts, served them meals and painted their faces aswell.
“At first I was nervous. After all, I am by no meansan artist and I did not want to disappoint the childrenwith my feeble attempts to draw Disney characters,”said Emily Giblin from Gamma Chi Sorority.”However, soon I realized none of that mattered.”
Giblin felt this was a eye-opening experience andrealized the only thing these children wanted to do wasmake the most of every moment. She said people in thisday and age are easily irritated by everyday problems,but these families are grateful for everything they have.
They are grateful to be alive.”Give Kids the World is a community of dreamsand hope,” said Marquita Johnson, member of the DeltaSigma Theta Sorority. “To participate in the programwas a once in a lifetime opportunity.”The experience that had the most impact on this St.John’s student is when she painted the faces of the childrenfrom the Hunter family. She said their father wasvideo taping all of the volunteers, which means that thememories from that day will be in their home forever.
To ensure that the families were being entertained tothe fullest, some of the students even dressed up asBarney and elves.Pelkowski said the volunteers wore St John’sUniversity shirts in order for everyone to know wherethe students were from. One of the families took noticeof their shirts and was pleased to know that there werepeople from her home state volunteering. “The familywas from Selden, New York and we became veryclose,” Pelkowski said. “We still talk to the family tothis day as well as the other families from Florida via email.”
Give Kids the World made wishes come true formore than 75,000 families from across the country.”This was a wonderful opportunity,” Pelkowskisaid. “It was a very meaningful experience for all of usto live out the mission of our University by spendingquality time with others and realizing what truly does matter.