It was a warm summer afternoon at Whaley Children’s Center in Flint, a home for children who have suffered chronic and profound neglect or abuse. A six-year-old girl with blonde hair and big blue eyes was playing dress-up. She was wearing a pair of high heels that were much too big for her when she spotted several of the kids outside playing kickball. With her high heels on, she went out to watch them. She sat picking flowers when Kevin Roach, Whaley CEO/President, walked by. He stopped and asked, “What are you doing?” She looked at him with a smile and said casually, “I’m picking daisies.” To a bystander, this exchange could have been made with any little girl; but to Kevin, it represented a milestone. He knew the child’s background and the horrors she had endured before making her way to Whaley. For Kevin and the hundreds of volunteers who generously give hours of their time to help make miracles happen at Whaley, that moment makes all the hard work worthwhile.
The Whaley staff honored the volunteers on July 17 at the annual Volunteer Appreciation Picnic. The event is an opportunity for the Center’s staff and children to recognize the 500 volunteers who donate their time and talents to all of Whaley’s different programs. On this humid evening, Kevin enjoyed a hot dog while rambling through the crowd, talking and laughing with volunteers and members of the community. He was excited about the number of people who attended the picnic, despite heat advisory warnings and the threat of thunderstorms. “This just shows their level of commitment; they really care about this place,” he smiled. “The volunteers are the heartbeat of Whaley and they give so selflessly.”
While all of the volunteers were recognized, seven special awards were presented this year. The Mentors of the Year award went to Melissa and Martin Gunther while Diana Slates and Angela Smith received the Family Volunteer of the Year award. TeLeah Brown was recognized as Teacher of the Year and Outstanding Civic Groups of the Year awards went to the Kiwanis, Optimist, Rotary, and Zonta clubs. C.H. Robinson was recognized as the Volunteer Organization of the Year and Renee Niles of Niles Custom Solutions was honored as the Event Volunteer of the Year. According to DeAndra McCain, Development Coordinator, Renee sat on all three Whaley fundraising committees last year and spent countless hours helping Whaley reach or exceed fundraising goals. Scott Triplett of Flushing received the Volunteer of the Year Award. Scott, who is a mentor for Whaley kids, was humble when commenting on his award. “I just enjoy working with the kids and mentoring them; they are all good kids who have been dealt a bad hand.”
As the volunteers, staff and community members enjoyed the picnic, bursts of children’s laughter could be heard from the nearby playground and bounce-house. “You can see the impact our volunteers make,” says Kevin, pointing at the kids playing, laughing, running through sprinklers and chasing each other. “That is what it’s all about.”
PHOTOS BY TRACI TURNER
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