From the second I arrived at Six Flags New England on Wednesday, August 20th, I could immediately tell that it was going to be a good day for the Red Cross. Prospective youth volunteers and club members began streaming in to the empty park, initially interacting only with close friends but quickly becoming much more comfortable with one each other as the incredibly helpful Six Flags staff shepherded us from the entrance to the Grove where the Youth Programs Day Event would take place. While I could tell that the general consensus among the attendees was that 8:30 in the morning was EARLY (A point I am sure most of us can agree on), I could not have been more impressed with the cheery mood evident as youth volunteers signed in and took seats alongside each other while sharing a light breakfast.
After a majority of the 80 youth were seated and settled, Sarah Corrigan, Board Chair of the Red Cross Pioneer Valley Chapter said a few opening words before conducting a basic ice breaker that involved everyone splitting away from those they arrived with in order to interact with someone brand new. I have been a part of many ice breaking events, and I have rarely seen a group so willing to mingle! This cheery mood continued to pervade the entire day from the lecture sections where the new volunteers learned the history of the Red Cross and about its mission and values to the ending educational walk through of Volunteer Connection. Perhaps the most impressive section of the day, however, was an exercise where the youth broke off into several small groups in order to plan potential fund raising ideas. Not only did every group come up with an incredibly clever fund raising idea, but they also managed to plan most of the logistics! My personal favorite was a group that came up with a color run (a cross country run where participants are generally pelted with water balloons full of paint), which would raise a lot of potential revenue for the Red Cross. In the end, while the event spanned a long 5 hours, every student remained actively engaged throughout and walked away with an enthusiastic call to “spread the red” as they move forward during the upcoming school year.
As i walked around the park afterwards, it was incredibly gratifying to see all the new Red Cross volunteers in their Red Cross Youth Programs Day shirts dispersed amongst the crowd knowing that all these highly motivated individuals will be working hard to further the Red Cross mission.