Ben & Ian, Therapeutic Youth Home Volunteers
If you stop by UCAN's gym on most Friday evenings you will find a loud bunch of boys running around, playing soccer, and laughing. This scene was not the same before Ben and Ian came into the lives of UCAN's youngest group of Therapeutic Youth Home youth. These two young men have created real change, and subsequently, have been changed themselves.
Their time with UCAN began as a simple volunteer project for school. Ben and Ian, both freshmen at the Latin School of Chicago at the time, came in to help wrap gifts for our clients during the holidays in 2009. The young men instantly bonded with our youth and wanted to know when they could come back to spend more time with the boys. Kathy McCarthy, Vice President of the Therapeutic Youth Home, says, "These two were different than other teenage volunteers, and I was happy to arrange another time for them to volunteer."
Ben and Ian came back, this time with Ian's mom Stephanie. They decorated cookies for Valentine's Day and learned more about the kids and their hobbies. Ben and Ian, best friends since they were five, are huge soccer fans - and it just so happened that the kids in the Home are as well! Ben and Ian again expressed interest in spending more time with the youth and Kathy was able to arrange for them to come back on the next Friday evening to play soccer with the kids.
It's been about a year now and the young men, now sixteen years old, can be found most Friday evenings in UCAN's gym - teaching the group new tricks and playing soccer and other games with our youth. Ben says, "I love spending time with the kids; we learn from each other and I've made some true friends." Ian adds, "I'd like to think I've made a positive impression on them, for they have definitely made one on me; just being able to understand the things these kids face each day in their lives is incredible. Interacting with them has helped me better understand other individuals and realize that they are just normal kids."
Ben and Ian have definitely made an impact on our youth. "On days when Ben and Ian can't come over, we are sad," says M.C. "When Ben and Ian took a trip to China we weren't happy that they weren't around but we were happy that they were on a trip having fun," adds D.Q. The youth enjoy spending time with Ben and Ian because they feel that they can talk about anything with them - from how to do a certain soccer move, to how to deal with a certain problem they are having at school. J.M. says, "They even take us to the park or zoo sometimes and come watch our AYSO soccer games!"
When asked what the kids would want other people to know about Ben and Ian, M.C. remarked, " Ben and Ian are the best mentors ever - I've never really had a mentor before. Kids should all have mentors like I do - they make me feel better when other kids make fun of me or when I'm having a bad day."
In just a small amount of time Ben and Ian have been able to really connect with our youth. Kathy McCarthy says, "it's amazing to see the wisdom, maturity, and compassion that Ben and Ian have at their age - they are going to be great men." UCAN would like to thank Ben and Ian for their time and commitment to our youth!