Max Morris, 12, of Northbrook, finds excitement running down the field as a member of the Junior Spartans Football program, but when the whistle blows and the game is over, he spends time serving the community through a local small group for kids.
Once classes end at Northbrook Junior High School, Dylan Grinko, 12, of Northbrook, enjoys making his mark on the field playing flag football. Outside of athletics, he also enjoys spending time with kids giving back to the community through various service-learning projects.
When Tyler Nelson, 11, of Northbrook, isn’t making plays on the field with his flag football team, he can be found meeting up with a group of kids for monthly service-learning projects.
Lilly Welch, 11, of Northbrook, enjoys hitting the soccer field with her teammates when classes aren’t in session. However, when the game ends, the stadium clears and cleats are put away, she can be found meeting up with a group of local kids for monthly projects, allowing her to have fun and make a difference in the community.
Morris, Grinko, Nelson and Welch are among four students at NBJH that teamed up to tackle a service-learning project—under the guidance of Karen Nelson, a religious education teacher at St. Norbert School and Tyler’s mother—in which they created blessing bags for the homeless on Saturday, Oct. 24.
At that meeting, the kids spent time watching a video made available on a blog, Thriving Home, which would serve as an educational resource and a source of inspiration for their service project.
They started filling bags to include socks, water, granola bars, Band-Aids, among others items.
“We talked about the items and why we put them in there,” Karen said, noting that many will hold onto things for comfort. “When they find a homeless person, these are the things they have on them.”
After watching the video and creating blessing bags, Morris said he developed a new understanding for what it means to be homeless.
“Some homeless people are just unlucky and are trying to come back from it,” he said.
“When we’re watching the video, it made me think that some of us aren’t as lucky as others,” Welch said. “That made me think I was lucky so it was fun being with friends doing something for a good cause.”
The small group meets on a monthly basis and throughout the year, Karen said they complete a number of projects that help support the people in the community.
Although the efforts of non-profit organizations such as DuPage Pads provide support to many homeless persons, Karen said they cannot do everything so it makes sense for the kids to support the cause.
She added that getting connected with Pads allowed the kids to create blessing bags for the homeless and make a difference in the community in a new way.
Tyler said he hopes the blessing bags will provide the homeless with relief but also lets them know they’re not alone.
“(I hope they) not only help them along the path but to remind them we’re all here because of God’s love,” he said.
“I think (the blessing bags) made a difference and I think the less fortunate were appreciative,” Morris said.
On that day, the small group put together 40 bags for the homeless to take with them.
“I enjoyed being with friends and making things for the homeless,” Grinko said.
“I hope (the blessing bags) motivated them to get back on their feet,” Welch said.