“Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves” reads a quote in the volunteer kit. I was reading up ahead of my scheduled day at Mane Stream, an adaptive horsemanship and equine therapy center in Oldwick, NJ. I would quickly learn that Mane Stream was much more than a therapeutic program. It is a community of joy and healing. The special staff, therapists and volunteers who work at Mane Stream light up the lives of their patients and their families.
In the movie The Never Ending Story, Bastian learns the power of imagination….
Empress Moonchild: One grain of sand. It is all that remains of my vast empire.
Bastian: Fantasia has totally disappeared?
Empress Moonchild: Yes.
Bastian: Then everything has been in vain.
Empress Moonchild: No, it hasn’t. Fantasia can arise in you. In your dreams and wishes Bastian.
Empress Moonchild: Open your hand.
She puts the grain of sand into his hand and he looks at it…
Empress Moonchild: What are you going to wish for?
Bastian: I don’t know.
Empress Moonchild: Then there will be no Fantasia any more.
Bastian: How many wishes do I get?
Empress Moonchild: As many as you want. And the more wishes you make, the more magnificent Fantasia will become.
Empress Moonchild: Try it.
Bastian: Then my first wish is…
Moonchild follows his gaze and smiles…
One day in the not too distant future the world will belong to our children. They will make decisions on the environment, policies on poverty and social services, and be responsible for making decisions about resources, war, and peace. They will be the problem-solvers (and problem-creators) responsible for the well-being of future generations.
How can we support our children and young adults so they become their best selves in a global society? How can we fuel within them a sense of service and civic engagement? How can we expand their minds to include causes bigger than themselves?
Most importantly, how can we help them develop the resolve and confidence they will need so they believe without a shadow of doubt they can make a difference, effect change, and improve the world?
The speaker stood up at the front of the auditorium….
“Several times a year our group goes into local cities and towns and asks, ‘Who are your missing children?’ We get their names and photos, then make posters of these children.”
(She holds up one of the posters with the faces of at least 15 children on it)
“We then stop at motels and hotels” she continued, “and ask the staff, ‘Have you seen any of these faces?’”
“EVERY TIME we’ve done this we’ve had at least one rescue. Sometimes several. The children are usually going by different names, but we always find someone who recognizes at least one and it allows us to start to work towards finding them and rescuing them.”
These children… they are typically between the ages of 12 and 16. These cities and towns? …. They are in New Jersey….
April 19, 1973…. It’s Maundy Thursday. Seven-year old Joan Angela D’Alessandro is playing in her front yard after school when she sees her neighbor, Joseph McGowan, drive by on his way up to his home three houses away.
Eager to deliver her last boxes of Girl Scout cookies, Joan runs into the house and tells her mom she’s going to walk over to Mr. McGowan’s house to give him the 2 boxes of Thin Mint cookies he ordered.
Joan never came home.
According to the NJ Department of Children and Families, there were 59,151 referrals for child abuse and neglect in 2013. All were referred for investigation. Just about 10,000 of them became active/open cases. Ongoing neglect, physical and/or sexual abuse, domestic/school/community violence… these are the environments of children living in trauma… of families in crisis. It’s a world behind closed doors, a secret space in society. It is into this world that Family Intervention Services (FIS) steps, with the goal of protecting children and rehabilitating families.
DoSomething.org is the future of volunteer and activism experiences. The non-profit uses a digital platform to power offline action through hundreds of grass-roots volunteer, social change, awareness and civic action campaigns.
Targeted at ages 13 – 30, the campaigns can be completed by individuals or groups, without any need for transportation, funding by participants, or oversight. Young adults love to get involved and make a difference. They are passionate about causes they identify with. DoSomething.org taps into that potential and makes getting active super easy and super fun, empowering teens and young adults to drive social change.
Chased by Lego knights and pirate ships, stalked by 6 foot tall dinosaurs, time-warped to the 1930s to carve Mt. Rushmore, paralyzed by the siren’s song of a Metropolitan Opera Soprano….. is this a crazy, alcohol-fueled dream? Nope. This is how I rang in an eclectic and delightful New Year’s Eve at First Night Morris in Morristown, NJ.
Just across the Hudson River from NYC’s wealthy Tribeca area, the waterfront neighborhoods of Jersey City boast recently constructed high-rise office buildings and luxury apartments where one bedroom, one bath, 750 sq. ft. condos sell for over $800,000. Trendy restaurants, expensive gyms and swanky shops welcome new, mostly young, Jersey City residents, attracted to the beautiful skyline and proximity of NYC. But just a short drive a few blocks west and south, crossing under the NJ Turnpike /Rt. 78 Ext, which slices Jersey City in half, and another, much older Jersey City emerges. Here, the landscape is spattered with pre-foreclosures and foreclosures. Here, a 3 bedroom, one bath home over 1,500 sq.ft. can be secured for under $300,000. Here, median income drops from upwards of $80,000 to $35,000. Here you can find neighborhoods with poverty levels beyond 30% and unemployment levels upwards of 40%. This is a place where gunfire and violence are everyday realities. Team Walker exists here, in this shadowland, among these disadvantaged communities.