We have received a grant from the Grand Rapids Community Foundation’s Youth Grant Committee to support our Therapy and Fun summer program! The grant will bolster teen volunteer therapy aides who help children with disabilities learn to walk, talk, learn, and play.

Every year, more than 50 Grand Rapids area teenagers (ages 11-17) choose to wake up before 7:00 am three days a week during the summer to volunteer at Therapy and Fun. Last year, volunteers logged over 2,000 summer-morning hours helping West Michigan children reach their speech and language goals (such as using two or three word phrases), sensory goals (such as finding pennies in the sand box), and motor goals (such as riding a tricycle).

The Grand Rapids Community Foundation’s Youth Grant Committee is comprised of almost 30 Kent County high school students who meet to discuss issues important to teens – such as drug and alcohol abuse – and fund proposals from area nonprofits that address those needs.

Many of the children who have attended Therapy and Fun have been victims of prenatal drug and alcohol use, drunk driving, neglectful parenting, and abuse. Having worked with a nonverbal 4 year old who was prematurely born addicted to cocaine, or a child who can longer walk without assistance because he was hit by a drunk driver, makes a volunteer much less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol himself.

Through hands-on experience working with children with disabilities, volunteers see how hard work and determination can achieve goals. They learn valuable life skills like conflict resolution, childcare, nonverbal communication, medical knowledge, and empathy.

Many volunteers return to Therapy and Fun year after year because they find the work extremely rewarding. In the words of one volunteer, “It feels great knowing that you have made a difference in a child’s life.”

We are still looking for a few good teens to volunteer for us this summer. If you know a teen who might be interested, please have them call us at (616) 559-1054.