Coalition for the Homeless’ Carnival Night for Kids 2013!

One week ago as Lenny and I were out for our evening walk, a toddler no more than 18 months old ran towards us on the sidewalk with his parents closely following. The child, his cheeks puffed from his giant smile, had one end of a ribbon tied around his wrist attaching a large round mylar balloon to him like a bouncing tail as he toddled towards us as fast as his chubbly little legs seemed to allow. I couldn’t help but smile and think to myslf, “We should all experience life with such joyful abandonment!” However, for many, this is sadly not the case.

“The number of New Yorkers without homes has reached an all-time high. Tonight, more than 50,000 of our neighbors — including 21,000 children — will sleep in emergency shelters. The Coalition provides hot meals, crisis services, job training, permanent housing and special youth programs to 3,500 men, women and children each day while fighting for long-term solutions.”

Okay, okay! You’ve heard the numbers. You’re tired of being shown sad faces and despicable living conditions. Let me, instead, tell you about a magical night in Central Park where children and families were able to play until their cheeks hurt from smiling and bellies ached from laughter. A night that kids were free to be kids with one another — no matter what their socioeconomic status — and how that single evening helped set the stage for more smiles, more laughter and more happy memories.

According to Accuweather, “New York City has its seventh-wettest June on record.” Considering I’ve worn my wellies and dressed Lenny in his raincoat more times than not this month, I believe it. I would be a liar if I said I hadn’t been nervous tracking the weather forecast in the days preceding the Coalition for the Homeless’ Carnival Night for Kids. Mother Nature, however, sandwiched one perfect evening between two full of drenching rain. I’ve learned to be thankful for small miracles and this was definitely one.

My guests for the evening were New York Times bestselling author, Jerome Preisler, and his lovely wife (& Alecia Bakery NYC assistant), Suzanne. We were joined by the Director of First Step Job Training Program, my friend Liz Henderson, who introduced us to her co-workers and engaged us in thought-provoking discussions about our society while answering questions about the evening’s event and the Coalition.

Camp Homeward Bound  — The nation’s first summer sleep-away camp for homeless children. Located in beautiful Harriman State Park CHB provides hundres of boys and girls with a fun and safe summer.”

Bound for Success — Gives homeless students the educational support they need to succeed in school through afterschool and summer day camp programs.”

Little could have pulled me away from meeting such hard-working and dedicated people, but the gleeful squeals and children’s chatter that swirled around us captured my attention.

Cheering wildly as they took turns soaking the camp counselors in the dunk tank…

Skipping gleefully through random puddles with their faces brightly painted…

Giddily wearing balloon corsages…

Eating chicken fingers and cotton candy until their tummies were full…

Singing camp songs with a stage full of counselors…

Nothing I could say or write could fully express the joy that filled Victorian Gardens last night, but I believe these pictures captured some of the magic…

(*click on the thumbnail to view the photo in its entirety)

“Every summer since 1984, Camp Homeward Bound has given homeless youngsters the chance to escape crowded shelters and sweltering city streets to enjoy swimming, music, arts + crafts and learn cooking and computer skills. It’s a rare chance to forget the stress and insecurity of shelter life and just be a kid. Camp fosters self-esteem and confidence to build upon when summer ends. You can give a homeless boy or girl and opportunity to enjoy a summer he or she won’t forget by sponsoring a camper today!”

 

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