Young Dining for Dreams volunteers melt hearts and open minds June 15, 2012 by Lisa Bailey
Group fosters connections with the community and within BCCFA
With her curly red hair and sweet and social nature, the young girl charmed many of the celebrities attending the BC Centre for Ability’s recent Dining for Dreams gala. At other tables, guests were greeted by a five-year-old who broke hearts and brought smiles to many faces.
They were among a handful of youthful volunteers from various programs at the Centre who gave “mystery envelopes” to each guest at the fundraiser. Opened later in the evening, the gold envelopes contained a special pin sporting the Centre’s kite symbol and a donation card. Through this first-ever initiative, about $1,400 was raised for the Centre’s services and programs.
For the volunteer group, including children and one young adult, it was an opportunity to give back to the organization that supports them. They also brought a human face and personal connection to the Centre’s work.
“It’s a reality of who these people are that we’re helping. The whole purpose of the (Centre) and the event is to help them, and people actually have a chance to see them and speak with them,” says Adelle Fassler, a Consultant with the Vancouver Supported Child Development Program (VSCDP) who’s co-ordinated the group for a number of years.
“I think people are often surprised by how much they can do . . . and I think the kids are sometimes surprised by how much they can do too, so it’s a really mutually beneficial experience,” Adelle says.
She could see the volunteers shine as they connected with guests.
“I think they’re just proud that they’ve accomplished something and that they’ve done something . . . they know that they’ve helped,” Adelle says. “And for people who are receiving help to have that opportunity to be able to give help is really empowering. I think that’s one of the biggest things that comes out of it for them; such a sense of pride is so great for their self-esteem.”
Adelle says the group existed well before she joined the Centre, usually selling flowers or other items at Dining for Dreams to raise money. She says that working with the volunteers is her “favourite project” at the Centre.
“It’s just so fabulous to see how excited they get when they get to be together and have a chance to be part of such a big event like Dining for Dreams,” Adelle says.
It’s a positive and special night for them as they dress up and, accompanied by an adult volunteer for support, carry out dialogue and etiquette lessons they’ve learned and practised.
Response to the group often involves plenty of smiles and laughter. Adelle noticed that this year’s Dining for Dreams guests were especially engaged with the group and the Centre’s Heroes of Ability.
“People were really very motivated to do something for the young people, to help them in some way. They were very interested and inspired by them. I feel that the audience really enjoys having that personal element, that chance to speak with them.”
The volunteer group is also building connections within the Centre itself, Adelle says. Young participants, once predominantly teens from the VSCDP, now include school-age children from out-of-school care and social work programs. This year, a young adult from the Daily Endeavours (DE) program also took part.
The same growth holds true for the adult helpers, with this year’s group including DE and Early Intervention Therapy Program staff.
“It’s bridging all kinds of wonderful relationships,” Adelle says.
If you have a story to share or feedback on this article, please contact the newsroom at 800-294-0051, ext. 25, or e-mail lisa(at)axiomnews.ca.