Last week, Hi-Hope was visited by a group of teenagers from Florida who were taking part in a service program called Alive in You. Described as being "part conference, part service camp, 100% Catholic," the program involves teenagers coming together in select cities around the country and, among other things, doing service work for local organizations. This year Hi-Hope was selected to receive a group of kids from a church located in Oviedo, Florida. For three days they commuted out to Lawrenceville from their camp in Atlanta to do service work for our organization. They expected to do similar activities to the other groups: painting, landscaping, cleaning, building, etc. However, at Hi-Hope we are all about interaction; about getting to know each other.
After a short orientation and introduction to our organization they got to "work" playing board games, shooting hoops, painting, walking, talking, and - believe it or not - doing some fairly advanced puppetry. While all the kids were great, one young man named Pablo definitely stole the show with his puppetry talent. Every day he brought along Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear puppets that delighted several of our folks. Not only was Pablo skilled at manipulating the puppets movements, he also did voices and improvised comedic routines.
On the last day, one of the chaperones pulled me Nick aside and said, "just so you know, we might want to wrap things up a little early today. Your people definitely touched some hearts and minds in our group and I think they are going to be emotional. There might be a few tears." She was right. It was hard to get the kids together on the last day - they simply didn't want to leave. They asked us to track down everyone they had met so they could say "goodbye" in person. When we thanked them for their service as they left, the same chaperone said, "no...thank you. This experience has helped us grow so much and we will never forget it."