Less practical, more fun—that was the directive for a recent drive organized by two YMCA Fun Company site directors in Sumner County.
On March 21, the Y delivered four large bins from their programs to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital—donations that were light on the necessities and heavy on the accessories.
The idea came when Veronica High, site director at Guild Elementary, saw a post about childhood cancer on social media earlier this year.
As Veronica recalls, her own struggles with depression when she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia inspired her to meet some less obvious needs.
“I think mental health is overlooked when people volunteer things,” Veronica says. “I know how I felt, and I could only imagine how cancer makes children feel.”
Veronica remembered that Kristy Barrett, site director at Benny Bills Elementary, organized a donation drive at her Fun Company program in 2017 for childhood cancer patients in honor of a neighbor who had been diagnosed at age 9.
Both site directors spread the word to their staff, students and parents at Guild and Benny Bills, collecting donations throughout the first three weeks of March. Kristy also arranged a contribution from her program budget.
Kristy says that the students eagerly participated after hearing her speak about what children with cancer face each day, and parents responded with equal enthusiasm.
“Most of the time, the parents are very busy and have other things going on, but they were really involved and taking initiative,” she shares. “The kids got involved and brought in a little bit, and the staff were involved. We all pulled together.”
Kristy estimates that the drive collected $400 worth of donations from program families and staff.
While Fun Company includes service learning as part of its Association-wide program curriculum, community-led efforts like Kristy’s and Veronica’s inspire children to look for specific ways to help their neighbors.
For the children at Benny Bills Elementary, meeting a need in their community teaches key character values and helps them empathize with others.
“They were really humbled when we talked to the children about why we do this,” Kristy remembers.
At the Y, social responsibility lies at the heart of our mission, extending beyond the day-to-day operations and into relationships we build within our communities.