Ten students in grades one through eight from Westchester and Riverdale; and 15 high school volunteers, juniors and seniors from SAR High School, met together for the first time on Wednesday, February 27, for the exciting launch of the Westchester/Riverdale I-Shine program, held at Westchester Day School in Mamaroneck, New York. One would have thought the kids had known each other forever! Within minutes they were laughing and playing games. Two boys found a football and ventured outside in the chilly weather with their “big brothers” and played an intense game. Other kids were doing their homework. Kids were munching on snacks and popcorn was being popped! Out of the supply closet came “Even Steven’s Odd,” “Connect Four,” “Headbandz” and other fun games. This is what I-Shine is all about!
Chai Lifeline’s I-Shine program is a unique after-school program designed for families dealing with difficult health issues of a child or parent. When everyday life is disrupted as families deal with medical problems and other responsibilities, I-Shine provides assistance in a friendly, caring and organized fashion. I-Shine kids meet once or twice a week for several hours in a specific location. Kids complete homework assignments, have snacks and dinner, play games and are paired with a high school volunteer, who serves as a friend and mentor to each child. Fun is the name of the game at I-Shine.
Clearly, the heart and soul of I-Shine are the high school volunteers. These wonderful teenagers provide the kids with friendship, kindness and one-on-one attention. The SAR student volunteers who are part of Westchester/Riverdale I-shine were amazing as they helped the kids with their homework assignments and got to know the children. With so much attention, the I-Shine kids had the best time ever!
The afternoon activity was led by Nikki Fuchs Sausen, who introduced the kids to her “Paint With Me” program, where each participant had “a chance to meet your inner artist.” Every child and volunteer was given an easel, a smock, a palette of paint, brushes and a canvas. Providing step-by-step instructions, motivating comments and excellent teaching skills, Sausen had the kids creating canvases that were almost museum-worthy.
One of the highlights of the afternoon was a surprise birthday party for a first grader. With balloons, gifts and a lot of singing, the kids celebrated with enthusiasm and enjoyed sharing the delicious birthday cake created just for this happy occasion.
I-Shine’s volunteer drivers, who transport each child home after the program, reported that the kids were chatting about the great time they had and how they couldn’t wait for the next I-Shine event where they would meet their new friends, especially their high school “playmates,” and find out what the next surprise would be.
By Yvette Finkelstein