North Colonie Kids Care nominees get their inspiration to volunteer from many different people and places. But for Shaker High School 10th grade student, Cheyenne DeLair, her inspiration is right in her own home; her younger brother, who has autism.
“I know he understands that he has a different ability than everyone else, but he just pushes through and it makes me happy,” said DeLair. “I’m his sister and I love to watch him grow up.”
DeLair began volunteering this past summer in the Friday Knights Recreation Program at The College of Saint Rose. According to its description and mission, the program is a structured and supportive recreational environment for children and adolescents who need opportunities for social interaction beyond what is available through school settings or community recreation programs. Children with autism spectrum disorders or other social challenges are welcome in the program.
“The majority of our volunteers come from The College of Saint Rose, but occasionally we have a high school student who has a sibling and wishes to join as a volunteer,” said Dr. Susan DeLuke, an associate professor of education at the college. “We welcome them into the program and find they offer a special level of mentorship as peers.”
DeLuke says the program meets five times in a semester. The volunteers serve as the counselors and activity leaders, with education faculty from Saint Rose on site to provide activities, guidance and supervision.
Delair says the activities she participates in range from music, arts, and science experiments. She says when she first began to volunteer, her original goal was to better understand the difficulties her brother faces on a day to day basis. Now, she finds herself connecting with an additional group of children who get so much out of the two hours she spends with them a week.
“We’re all a huge family,” said DeLair. “That’s what I love about it. They look up to you and can talk to you about whatever they want. It’s a different level of happiness and I really enjoy it.”