By Claire Frost
To redirect attention from negativity, Mr. Rogers taught us all to “look for the helpers,” when something goes wrong. In these uncertain times, it’s so refreshing and uplifting to see organizations like Give a Kid a Chance bettering our community. This year’s event on July 16 marked 11 years for the program, which is an all-volunteer outreach ministry whose purpose is to equip low-income kids for the new school year.
In addition to new, stocked backpacks, each child received new socks and underwear, medical screenings (vision, hearing, and dental), gently used clothing, toiletries, and haircuts. All of this was offered by scads of smiling volunteers in a fun and festive environment, complete with a lunch. Students and their younger siblings also were able to choose a stuffed animal and a book from a selection of more than 8,000.
When founders Candi Hannigan and Cheryl Ruffer stepped down from directing the program, they left it in the capable hands of Amy Cadarette, who got involved with the organization after becoming a volunteer with MUST Ministries Summer Lunch Drive, and Cory Steinberg, who took the reins and ran with it! However, this event is a true community effort with 45 businesses, 31 churches and 500 individuals teaming up to serve more than 3,000 children at two locations. (Over a 10-year period, this program has benefitted 22,700 children!)
Every year, First Baptist Canton and Hillside United Methodist Church in Woodstock open their doors to host the events. Kristin Gauthier and the Service League of Cherokee County took on the position of collecting, sorting and storing thousands of pieces of clothing. Nitasha Ginn and the Junior Service League of Woodstock collected and coordinated the backpack and school supply donations. Of the two, Amy Cadarette had to say “They’re incredibly devoted to helping kids in our community.” Several county sports teams, Etowah High School lacrosse, Woodstock High School football, and Cherokee High School football teams helped with the event set-up. Several businesses donated backpacks and clothing, as well as set up donation spots to support this amazing program.
When asked what stood out to volunteers at the event, there was no shortage of gratitude. Volunteer Heather Burt said she was “… moved by the amount of people there that were really in need and that were so thankful for any of the items … The amount of volunteers was incredible. It was so great to see the community come together.” Tyler Peabody, another volunteer echoed her sentiment, saying, “It was so rewarding to see the kids so excited about being able to pick out their backpack. Seeing their eyes light up when they got what they asked for, or you were able to exceed their expectations. What a wonderful day when communities can come together to help one another selflessly. Beautiful. Wish we could do more.”
When the community can come together to make a difference in the lives of those within it, it truly is a good day. Look no further for the helpers. They are right here in Cherokee County.