I have been volunteering with Backyard Sports for more than two years. During this time I have been part of two amazing programs they offer. One is a program that BYSC holds at the Coachman. The Coachman, once a commercial hotel, is now a transitional facility in White Plains which provides housing for a large number of homeless families. Each month the Coachman hosts a party to recognize and celebrate the birthdays of all the kids living in the facility that were born in that month. The celebration starts with all kids ages four to sixteen coming to the recreation room for two hours of fun and party games.
Since these are young kids, fun and games often means some type of sports related activities. My role as a representative from Backyard Sports is to be the facilitator of the activities. I took on the task of planning, organizing and running the activities. The first party I had to plan and run on my own I was nervous. I wanted everything to be perfect. That first session turned out to be extremely hard for me. The children were running around having fun but I quickly learned how very difficult it was to control them. Thanks to my previous experience volunteering with Backyard Sports Cares, I made some changes in my approach to settle down the kids in order to safely do the activities.
Thanks to advice from Danny Bernstein, instead of getting louder when they got out of control, I simply spoke softly. I also thanked and recognized the children who were being good listeners and doing what was asked. All the other kids quickly followed suit and I was able to communicate with the group as a whole. In addition to the learning experience of being patient when working and coaching young children, I also forged some amazing relationships with the kids. Despite their young age and difference in backgrounds, the bonds I made with many of the kids will be ever lasting. Recently at one of the birthday parties, one of the children who has been there for a while sought me out to show me a notebook containing his drawings. This truly touched me because it showed me the connection that I felt I made with these kids was real. It was a connection that was felt both ways – me to them and them to me. As I reflected on the bonds I’ve made, I realized and discovered they are also difficult for me. As much as I love spending time with them each month, I also find myself hoping that I do not see them on my next visit. This is because seeing them means they’re still without a home. As close as I’ve grown to these kids and as much as seeing them makes my week better and more meaningful, I would much rather see them have a better and more stable home life.