During a recent visit with Sharon Johnson, the Director of Membership and Program Development at the Druid Hill Family Center Y, we stood at the gym doors and watched as 20 kids played freely.
Some kids were playing kickball and some reading on the sidelines; all acting like kids are supposed to act. Free, loud, and happy.
Sharon pointed to two brothers, Kyle and James, and commented, ‘What you see now, those two boys playing separately, is unique.’ Sharon started this story by sharing that James, 10 years old, ‘speaks very little and is not social; although he is very smart. There may have been some trauma in his young life that is behind his overt shyness and social ineptness. Dad’s gone, and mom’s parental skills appear to be lacking. Kyle, 12, the older brother, is the closest model of a parent to James as anyone else in the world.’
Sharon went on to explain an average day in the lives of these little boys:
Kyle wakes up earlier than his little brother. He gets himself ready and dressed before waking up James and helping him do the same. Kyle makes James his breakfast makes sure he gets his things for school and then he walks James to school before catching the bus and going on to school himself. At the end of the day, Kyle meets James at his classroom and they walk together to the Druid Hill Y for the Y After-School Enrichment Program they have attended together for the last few months.
‘As you can see,’ Sharon stated, ‘this young 12 year old boy (Kyle) has taken responsibility for his younger brother the way most people do as parents for their children. Kyle makes sure that James is taken care of and is secure. Any time we need information from the family, you have to go through 12 year old Kyle to get it as if he were the parent.’
Once the boys are within the walls of the Y though, something unique happens, according to Sharon. ‘Kyle drops his invincible guard, the parental facade he has needed to assume, and until he walks out of the doors again to go home again, Kyle acts like a 12 year old boy. Of all the places in Kyle's world, the Y is the only place he can truly be a kid. He’ll tell you that it’s because he knows that the staff and kids at the Y care about his brother as much as he does, and at the Y, he knows James is safe.’Standing at the door of the gym that day, Lauren watched James interact quietly with kids of all ages. While he didn't speak with words, everyone he engaged with somehow listened. Across the gym, Kyle was playing and not once did he need to look up to see where his little brother was. He was just being a normal 12 year old kid. He could do this because knew he and his brother were safe at the Y.
If ever you ask yourself why it's important to support a strong Y, either as staff, fundraisers, donors or volunteers, all that you need to do is think about Kyle and James and you'll have your answer.
With your help, we can award scholarships to thousands of children in our community this coming year, so that children and adults alike, can enjoy the physical and psychological safety of being welcomed and well taken care of at the Y.