During the month of March, individuals in Youth Advocate Program’s Intellectual Disability and Developmental Disability (ID/DD) programs put together over 500 craft kits for Harrisburg based non-profit, Caitlin’s Smiles. March was ID/DD Awareness month and YAP wanted to do something special in recognition. Lebanon County staff person, Heather Hoover, suggested Caitlin’s Smiles as an option to give back to the community. YAP Vice President, Jessica Carlton, and YAP National ID/DD Coordinator, Lori Burrus recognized the value in YAP individuals volunteering for Caitlin’s Smiles and the project was quickly underway in YAP programs throughout PA.
Caitlin’s Smiles delivers thousands of craft kits and activity bags to children who are hospitalized. The mission of Caitlin’s Smiles is to share smiles and laughter to children who are facing chronic or life threatening illnesses. Caitlin’s Smiles has a powerful message and is very active in their community. Visit their website, www.caitlins-smiles.org or Facebook page to get a closer look at this dynamic organization.
“I’d like to do more to help sick kids,” said David Cornell after he was asked how he felt about participating in the project. David Cornell participates in services through the YAP Lackwanna office. David Cornell helped to put together craft kits for children to make a sports themed key ring. In Mercer County, two individuals, Donna Alabran and George Shearer put together kits to make a caterpillar craft. Donna Alabran stated “I love doing any kind of craft especially if it’s for little kids to make. The kids will be tickled pink.” YAP Assistant Director, Leah Vuich, said, “Donna loves working on crafts and is very talented, and is great at teaching others how to create things. George sometimes falls into a rut with his goal of going into the community to try new things. This was a great opportunity for him to try something new and go somewhere different.”
Staff and individuals in Crawford County created hand made cards. The cards are upbeat with spring themes and include a drawing of a “sunman” with a hopeful message of “Happy Sunshine.” Jeremy Driscoll, from Adams County, created a cat themed card and added a cheerful, “Sending Smiles!” Staff from Lebanon County donated toys, books, and arts and craft items. Lori Burrus commented, “I’ve always looked at what I do as a passion and a calling to help others, instead of ‘just a job.’ Seeing everyone pitch in to volunteer for Caitlin’s Smiles brings me joy and reminds me why I’ve stayed in the Human Services field for 32 years.”
Thanks again to all of the individuals and staff from York, Adams, Lancaster, Lebanon, Berks, Northampton, Tri County, Bradford, Mercer, Crawford, Bedford, Somerset and Lackawanna YAP offices who helped make this project a success.