By: Jesse Boxenhorn
This past summer I was given the opportunity of a lifetime to travel across the United States to Hawaii and Alaska with my camp, Camp Tioga. At Camp Tioga, CIT summer is a summer intended to gain leadership skills and step out of your comfort zone. Little did I know that this summer would change who I am as a person. While in Alaska and Hawaii, we hiked, we repelled down a mountain, and we surfed. However, the most rewarding part of this adventure was volunteering at the local Boys and Girls Clubs. The Boys and Girls Club is a “national, nonprofit organization which provides programs and services to promote and enhance the development of boys and girls by installing a sense of competence, usefulness, belonging and influence.” Their mission is to provide a safe place for kids in need to grow and develop.
Living in Dix Hills, Long Island, we often take things for granted, like the education we get and the supermarket that’s fully stocked down the street. While working with these children, I realized that some of these given things for me weren’t so given for them. It’s hard to understand someone else’s life story and step into their shoes, but I feel this summer truly enabled me to do so. I formed a special bond with one kid, Ziggy. Ziggy was a playful, athletic 9 year old with a big heart. Unfortunately, Ziggy lives a hard life with his dad in jail and his mom trying to just put enough food on the table every day. Despite how hard his life may be each day, he came running in with a smile on his face. That’s another thing that I grew to understand. Pushing through the hard times in life is definitely not easy, but somehow a smile makes it more manageable. This also made me realize that all the little things that make me down now seem minuscule. Ziggy loved running through the sprinklers, dancing, and playing basketball as any other kid would. But when it came time to go home every afternoon, his smile turned into a frown, and he had to face reality. The fact that I was able to give this kid a place where he can be himself and enjoy life made me feel good inside, but I wanted to do more. This is when I changed. I made a promise to myself that no matter where I am in life, I will always make time to better someone else’s life.
When our time was at an end at the Boys and Girls Club, I had to say goodbye to Ziggy. This was the hardest goodbye in my life, knowing how much of an impact I made on someone to just have to pick up and leave. It almost felt like a tease. I pulled Ziggy aside, held his hands, and said, “I know I may never see you again but just know you have changed me as a person, and I am always there for you.” Seeing the tears in his eyes was devastating, but I knew that this experience not only transformed his life, but it also transformed mine.