Doing good on Daniel Island
When an early release day pops up on the school calendar, parents of middle school aged children often scramble to rearrange their work schedules or find structured activities for their kids. Parents often feel frustrated on these days, caught between the demands of their jobs and the task of parenting older children who really just want to be with their friends, unsupervised and unprogrammed.
A group of Daniel Island School (DIS) parents gathered and had several conversations about filling this time off in a positive way, and the Do Gooders Club was born. The service club was created specifically for middle school students by former DIS PTA board members Rindy Ryan and Elizabeth Perkis.
According to Ryan, “Middle schoolers need a place to be and something productive to do with the early release Wednesdays. Students in middle school are looking for ways to make a difference, to get involved, but often service organizations require a minimum age to become involved.”
Additionally, students at DIS — which goes from Kindergarten to eighth grade — don’t have a typical “middle school” experience as they are often seen as an extension of the elementary school. Many crave opportunities to be seen by the community as young adults.
The new Do Gooders Club is managed by parent volunteers since teachers are involved in professional development programs on early release Wednesday. The group has adopted the motto “Make a difference — Be the change.” Their goal is to benefit the immediate community through the efforts of students while building a group of young philanthropists. All projects will be local to Daniel Island and will be held at the school or within walking or biking distance to reduce the need for student transportation.
On October 30, Do Gooders teamed with preschool students at Holy Cross Island School for their first club outing. Blondies Bagels sponsored the club by providing lunch. The middle schoolers chose their favorite books from the library to read with the younger students, and they worked to create a craft with the little ones. Club members also shared time on the playground, and helped teachers by disinfecting toys in the preschool classrooms.
Ryan said, “This first project connected our seventh and eighth graders to 3 and 4 year olds at Holy Cross. It brought parents together who volunteered to support and connected the DIS students to the teachers at Holy Cross. It was really awesome to see the connections.”
The Do Gooders are already receiving accolades from the community. Erin Grimm, a teacher in the 3 and 4 year old classes at Holy Cross, added, “We had such a wonderful time when the Do Gooders came into our classroom. The children were so excited and they keep asking, ‘When will the big kids come back.’ It was wonderful to see these kids interact so well with the children and to see how excited and happy it made the little ones. I also love to see these kids using their free time to give back — that is so huge and wonderful to see at their age.”
The middle school students also found the experience enjoyable. “The day ended up being way more fun and exciting than I expected. I am glad I did it. Our new preschool friend was so funny and sweet,” shared eighth-grader Grace Ward.
Bryce May, a seventh grader at DIS, agreed: “It felt really good hanging out with all the younger kids.”
The next Do Gooders event was planned for Nov. 20. The project focused on packing gift boxes for Operation Christmas Child to send to children around the world living in poverty. Then the students canvased the neighborhoods surrounding the school with informational fliers about the food collection project in December to benefit the Lowcountry Blessing Boxes. Students will then return to the homes they have canvassed for their December project to collect any donations earned by their efforts. Future projects will benefit Happy Wheels and Furnishing Hope.
The new club is seeking donations from the business community in their efforts to provide lunch for all volunteers on project days.
The Daniel Island Community Fund (DICF) has recently joined as a sponsor to cover expenses such as supplies and T-shirts for the club members so they are recognizable in the community. The Rotary Club has also expressed an interesting in providing support. “To have this kind of organized support behind the kids is really inspiring and so helpful,” explained Ryan. “I am humbled by the excitement that DICF and Rotary have for this movement.”
To learn more, visit their Facebook page, DIS Do Gooders.