YMCA program camps out on Northrop Mall, seeks members

Maggie Hessel-Mial

University YMCA volunteers want more buddies, and they’re willing to brave the elements to recruit them.

Students involved in the “Y” Buddies program, staffed by 22 volunteers, are camping out on Northrop Mall for 24 hours from 11 a.m. Wednesday to 11 a.m. Thursday. Organizers hope the “Camping for Kids” event will draw at least 50 more people to the group.

“This program is important for kids who don’t get a lot of attention at home,” said Jenny Lassila, volunteer and Carlson School of Management junior. “It’s important for them to have someone in their lives to be a positive role model.”

Volunteers are assigned a child from one of 11 elementary schools in the area to spend time with at least once per week. Once per month the entire group participates in an activity together, such as a lock-in at the “Y” or a trip to the St. Paul Winter Carnival.

The “Y” Buddies program has involved University students for 36 years and currently has 120 student volunteers.

Lassila has been a “Y” Buddy for a year and said she enjoys being a part of a child’s life and developing a relationship. She still is in contact with her 9-year-old buddy from last year, Danielle.

“Danielle and I would go out for ice cream or she would come over to watch a movie,” Lassila said. “She was shy at first, but opened up to me and would tell me stuff she wasn’t able to tell anyone else.”

Katy Skogmo, a fourth-year College of Liberal Arts student, talks to her buddy from last year, Tamika, 10, three or four times per week.

“Kids tend to get lonely and not get enough attention,” Skogmo said. “So they feel good when someone else cares about them.”

Volunteers meet each Tuesday to talk and learn about different issues they might encounter with the kids, including cultural diversity concerns and even a lesson on how to deal with a child with Attention Deficit Disorder.

The campsite will be staffed by at least three of the volunteers at all times during “Camping for Kids.” Overnight, more than 10 people will be at the site, along with music and food. Interested students can pick up applications at the site and set up interviews.

The program members originally wanted to camp by the Superblock, but University officials and police suggested Northrop instead.

No matter where they camp, the “Y” Buddies expect to be successful in recruiting new members.

“I think the camp-out will show people the togetherness of our group,” Lassila said. “We’re dedicated, and we want to get out there what our program is and what it does.”

 

Maggie Hessel-Mial welcomes comments at [email protected]