written by: Blythe Freshwater
“Boys will be kings,
Girls will be queens,
Wrapped in Your majesty
When we love, when we love the least of these…
If not us, tell me who will be
Like Jesus to the least of these?”
–Audio Adrenaline’s Kings and Queens (2013)
On Friday, February 16th, a group of OKWU students rallied together to lend a hand for a community outreach event. OKWU partnered with “Faces with Names” to give local parents of 83 kids a night out. The children, most of whom were foster kids ranging in age from 0-16, were dropped off in the MSC building for two hours of fun with 35 college kids willing to give up their Friday night to bless the kids’ parents.
Faces with Names gave each of the parents some candy, a rose, and a $30 gift card accepted at most Bartlesville restaurants, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day. Then they sent them off, having reassured them that their kids were in capable and faithful hands. Most foster parents do not get the chance to go on a date night very often: some parents said this was their first date night in almost six months.
MSC was hopping with energy, and a lot of fun was had by all. There were three general groups of about 25 kids each: ages 0-3, 4-10, and 11-16.
Kameron Mendes, a junior Secondary English Education major, says she “really enjoyed working with the babies and toddlers” as they colored pictures and put puzzles together in the upper classrooms of MSC. She continues, “I’m just glad these munchkins got to have some fun and hang out with people who care about them. A bunch of the little ones cried for their moms at the beginning, which was so pure and sweet, but simultaneously heartbreaking, because they are too little to realize that their ‘moms’ aren’t even their real moms–their foster parents are the only parents they know.” She laughs as she recalled that “most of the helpers for the babies were ladies, until a couple guys came up to help. Darius and Will were funny as they tag-teamed holding and playing with three babies.” Mendes says that she loves babies, and she would do this type of outreach again in a heartbeat.
Alison Theis, a freshman Music Business major, says, “I had a great time playing with the elementary aged kids. I think I impressed them with my mad drum skills, although they thoroughly kicked my behind at tag, what with my bad knee and all.” Theis continues, “It’s always interesting to see what new things little kids will force me to do to amuse them, simply because I am a teen in college. For example, pulling my hoodie strings and making monster noises kept them entertained for 25 or so minutes.” The elementary kids certainly had a lot of energy and gave the older students a run for their money with games like Shark and Minnows, tag, and basketball. Snack time and frequent bathroom trips were a common sight.
Junior Secondary Math Education major Colby Martinez attests, “Working with the middle and high school students was just the purest experience.” The older kids played some seriously hard-core dodgeball and tag-games for the two hour event, and the college students working with them seemed to enjoy some lighthearted times. “Getting to know the kids and helping them forget their troubles for a little while really was a powerful thing,” says Martinez, “and I would do it again in a heartbeat… provided I took a nap first. Those kids had so–much–energy!”
Doing this outreach event really opened the OKWU students’ eyes to the reality of foster care. In the training before the event, Eric Mills, CEO of Faces with Names, said that 70% of those in prison today and 65% of the homeless population had been in the foster care system at some point. This is what kids in foster care face. But it was a powerful (and fun!) experience to bless Bartlesville parents who are reaching out to and caring for these hurting kids. The OKWU students were able to show the kids that they are valuable and loved by their community.