In 1970 I called the Camp Fire office, recalling my childhood experiences as Blue Bird and Camp Fire Girl. I hoped to become an assistant leader for a group in Edina. Hah! They had other plans for me and I became the sole leader for a small band based out of a boarding house at Franklin and Stevens. Two girls in the group were sisters--the six children in their family all had different last names. The most exciting event in the neighborhood was when the plastics explosives carried by a man along 35W went off, demolishing houses and strewing body parts around. To give them a different view of the world, we did nature immersion: hiking, picnics and camping. We went to museums, we did tours. They earned honor beads by visiting with a person from another country, one of our cataloging staff who told them about life in Romania under Ceauşescu.
When I became involved with Big Brothers/Big Sisters I got an 11-year-old best friend. She was scared of dogs, yet the first time she visited my house, she posed for a photo with my 125-lb. dog. BBBS provided free tickets for Saints games, and sponsored picnics, banquets, and volunteer opportunities such as the AIDS walk. In between those we had season tickets to CTC, dipped into Stepping Stone and YPC productions, and saw every good kids' movie that came out. Swimming, overnights, and a Take A Child to Work Day on the St. Paul Campus (piglets, kittens, bugs, fashion, dog hospital!) Years later, as a grown up, she wrote me a letter about what a wonderful time that was for her, and it was for me, too.
A Better Chance is a program that brings academically-talented but at-risk high school students of color to a different part of the country, to live with other youths and attend a top notch high school. The girl I mentored in this program was from Emeryville, CA, a year ahead in high school, and aiming to be an electrical engineer.
These and other programs provide opportunities to share love and new experiences with kids, giving them respite from difficulties at home or school, allowing them to hope for a brighter future and see how that might happen. It can be lots of fun, and there are times of heart-break. You for sure embark on a life-enriching relationship.