“How many of you have family members who have served our country?” Twelve hands went up in the air.
“Today, we are saying thank you to veterans. I’d like you each to make Valentines for Vets.” This was a repeat activity. The youth had responded so well last November when I asked them to support veterans by writing thank you notes for Veterans Day. When I planned this activity for the teens at Cordero, I worried that it would feel a bit like homework to kids who had just gotten out of a full day of school at their residential rehabilitation facility, and would be in therapy sessions later that afternoon.
The boys at Cordero are under the jurisdiction of the Oregon Youth Authority after experiencing abuse. Although in residential treatment, they are typical teenage boys, some interested in sports, others music, reading or castles. Imagine my surprise at how genuinely excited they were to write thank you notes! Some of them expressed disappointment that there wasn’t time to write more.
As we had done in November for Veterans Day, Assistance League member volunteers helped the boys to fill 100 treat bags, each with a personal note thanking a veteran for his or her service. The bags contained apples, juice, nuts, energy bars and candy. The local Veterans Administration in Portland shared them with vets who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
Assistance League of Greater Portland provides activities for the boys at Cordero twice a month. We get to know these boys and offer support as they grow. Most boys are there for years as they recover from experiences with sexual abuse. As member volunteer, I’m part of the team that provides activities and celebrates birthdays and Christmas with them.
This particular activity, honoring veterans, gave the boys a chance to give back. The boys rose to the occasion. Giving gifts to the veterans turned out to be a gift to these boys as well. They responded with heart to a chance to do something good for others.