Family Services staff members reach out to local foster youth during enrichment camp
On the morning of August 3, 2010, the campus of Orlando’s Trinity Preparatory School came to life with nearly 50 foster teenagers for the Dwight D. Howard Foundation’s Summer Enrichment Camp. For the next four days, dozens of adult volunteers – including eight members of the Family Services of Metro Orlando staff – served as camp counselors and mentors to the youth as they participated in a wide variety of activities. The camp catered to the teens’ interests in sports such as soccer, kickball and cobra; academics through science experiments and interactive math lessons; and personal development during leadership trainings in the afternoons. On the last day, the youth and volunteers spent a day at Disney’s Magic Kingdom to celebrate the many things they had learned and experienced.
“For me, the best part of the camp was seeing the kids participate in the science experiments,” said Benilda Thomas-Phynn, Child-in-Care Eligibility Specialist for Family Services. “Just seeing them get excited about learning was awesome.”
Guest speakers at the camp included Circuit Nine Judge Alicia Latimore, Pastor Tony McCoy and ex-NBA player David Vaughn. Lucas Boyce – a now 31-year-old man who grew up in foster care and has since worked in both the Whitehouse and the NBA – also shared his story, believing that each of the kids at the camp could accomplish their dreams regardless of his or her background. The youth also had the chance to meet several members of Dwight Howard’s immediate family, including his parents, Dwight and Sheryl Howard Senior. Gregory Kurth, Chief Executive Officer for Family Services, and Randall King, a Family Services board member, also visited the youth.
Sharda Siew-Surjan coordinated the Family Services staff involvement, which included Kyraneshia Coleman, Lori Yiaski, Gedline Lincifort, Maria Narvaez, Victor Salgado, Benilda Thomas-Phynn and Danielle Collette. Felipe Sanchez-Alvalez from One Hope United also gave his time to invest in the children of the camp.
“This was a valuable opportunity for us to remember why we do what we do for children and families,” said Siew-Surjan. “Every child deserves to have exciting and memorable childhood experiences, like a week at summer camp or a day at Disney World. That’s what makes our work worth it.”
The camp was a true community event, with Family Services working alongside many other organizations and businesses including Adidas, Air Tran, Aramark, Chick-fil-a, Community Based Care of Seminole County, EA Sports, Ed Hardy, the Florida Department of Children and Families, Planet Smoothie, Sodexo, Solnek, Trinity Preparatory School, Turner Broadcasting Systems Inc., Walt Disney World, Wells Fargo and Westgate Resorts.