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Kiwanis’ K-Kids learn to care
“I’ve never been in an organization to help, and it’s fun to help and donate,” Oajah Mendiola said. “It gives people a better life.”
This is usually the kind of spirited insight we hear from enlightened adults who just finished the summer building houses in Somalia. But Mendiola, while very mature herself, is only a fifth-grader at Crescent Harbor Elementary School.
She and about 20 other students are involved with K-Kids, a student-led community service club which operates under school regulations and draws its members from the student body. Kiwanis is the club’s sponsor.
Working in this cause-driven environment, young learners at Crescent Harbor are not only learning the practical side of community service, but the reasons for it. In many of these children’s’ young lives, they’ve already donated a DVD player to the school library, went trick-or-treating to raise funds for orphans of AIDs in Swaziland, and collected bears for the police department’s “Teddy Bear Patrol Project.”
At their after-school meeting Wednesday, Renee Mueller of the Oak Harbor Police Department accepted their donation of 63 stuffed animals. The toys are given to children who are injured or traumatized in accidents.
Several K-Kids relayed stories of getting lost in the woods or needing stitches and receiving their own stuffed friend.
“We had a house fire and all of our toys were burned up,” one student said. “The teddy bear was a the first toy I got after the fire.”
Although a majority of these students are in fifth-grade, the program begins in grade three. K-Kids annually elect their own officers; president, vice president, secretary and treasurer, who spend lunch hours organizing the meetings.
“I ran on the platform that I wanted to raise money for the children’s hospital,” president and fifth-grader, Samantha Walter said.
K-Kid adviser, teacher Debbi Longland, invited Blake Thomson, or Dr. Stumble More, to offer fundraising suggestions Wednesday. He volunteers as a hospital clown at Whidbey General.
The children asked him a mass of questions: How many pairs of big shoes do you have? Are you related to Ronald McDonald? And most importantly, how can we help?
The “doctor” recommended the children raise money for the hospital’s volunteer department. The donations will offset the cost of Thomson’s materials, which include free clown noses for patients.
In the spring, the K-Kids will hold a talent show to raise their goal of $250.
The meeting ended with the class dividing into four groups to clean up trash on the campus during recess. Longland discussed bringing in non-perishable food items for Help House.
“Working with kids this age, they are just so enthusiastic,” Longland said. “It’s good to get them on this track early.”
The students’ tenacity is seen at the start of each meeting, when the children stand and recite a pledge: “As a K-Kid I promise to serve my neighborhood and my school. I will show respect toward my environment and I will try to make the world a better place.”
While it’s unknown if early exposure to community service leads to lifelong commitment, the values of the program are not lost on the K-Kids.
Through his own experience, fifth-grade, vice-president Daniel Baker was awakened to the needs of the wider world after watching a video about a Swazi boy, who was orphaned after his parents died of AIDs.
“I learned that one small change can make a difference,” he said.