I believe in Magic.

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2016 has let me experience the true feelings of love, hard work, loss, compassion, happiness, fear, anxiety, excitement, and the most important — Magic.

This December I got the privilege to volunteer at Give Kids the World Village in Kissimmee, FL.  The reason I got to experience such a life changing trip is due to CMU’s awesome Alternative Breaks program. What I truly admire Image may contain: 11 people, people smiling, people standing and outdoorabout this program is that students interested in volunteering during one of our school year breaks (weekends, winter, spring, or summer) sign up for a social justice issue they are interested in serving, instead of signing up for a place to attend. Therefore, I got to go on a week long service trip this winter break with 11 amazing women that were also passionate about uplifting families and children.

Volunteering at Give Kids the world for four days truly has made my believe in magic again. When people think of magic we often refer to Harry Potter and fairy tales, but the smiles on the children’s faces showed me the true meaning of magic. Give Kids the World Village is happiest place on earth – it’s a place where children with life threatening illnesses and their families get to experience a week long all paid vacation full of food, fun, and even tickets to all the Disney Parks. 

Though my role during the week seem pretty minimal, I know it made a big difference since this village runs on volunteers. For this amazing place to operate it needs over 2,000 hours of volunteer service, and my group soon realized after arriving how important this service was to the children and families.

Our first dayImage may contain: 1 person, outdoor of service I got to be two roles within the village, “Lori’s Magical Flight Gate Keeper” and one of my favorites, a worker at the Ice Cream Palace. As the Gate Keeper, I learned how to operate a ride where the kids get to ride butterflies, and that is where I met one little girl I will never forget. The details of my experiences with the children are private for respect of the families, but this little one instantly showed me so much love and happiness. Her smile on the rides was truly contagious. Then that night myself and 3 other girls (Lauren, Liz, and Payton:)) worked at the Ice Cream Palace, where we absolutely had so much fun. Starting the night we didn’t know how much fun serving free ice cream to the kids and families would be, but after we made countless of banana splits, sundaes, and shakes we soon learned the true joys of scooping ice cream to all the excited kids. It was such a busy night, since many families were out at the Halloween party, which allowed us to interact with so Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, people standing and indoormany new smiling faces. Every family and children we interacted with during our week of service, and especially at the Ice Cream Palace, were so extremely nice and appreciative. Everyone and anyone that came in could order any crazy request of ice cream, and it was so fun to give a simple joy to the families. One little girl really touched my heart when she told us how volunteering with kids with special needs was a huge part of our life. She told us many stories that truly inspired us. Also one of my favorite moments of the night is when another little girl gave Liz a mask she made at the Halloween party, and then we preceded to make Liz wear it while scoping ice cream. The smile on the little girls face was so memorable.

Our second day of service was the one that impacted my heart the most. Not only was the day of service incredible, the group of strangers I came with from CMU became significantly closer by the second day. That day I worked in the Nancy’s Kitchen as a server in the morning, and at night I helped kids carry their trays while they looked all over the kitchen for yummy food to select. Working in the kitchen I met this family that I will never forget. The patience and love the father had for his daughter overwhelmed me with joy. The conversations I had throughout the week with this family is something I can’t explain. At these times it felt like nothing else mattered, because the conversations I was having seemed so magical and the most important thing happening in the room. It was awesome to listen to the girls stories about visiting the Disney Parks and what she wanted for Christmas. Just thinking about her and her family while typing this puts a smile on my face.

Also on our second day of service I learned about the most magical place within the village (and maybe on earth) – the Castle. The castle is where every wish child gets to create a star, and these stars are way more beautiful than the ones in the real sky. Each wish child gets to decorate their star, and the star fairy Stella willImage may contain: indoor take them up at night and place them on the ceiling of the castle. Then families can return and locate their star made in the past. As I walked into the castle for the first time, I got to see the ceiling glisten with thousands of stars, which made my heart pretty heavy. Give Kids the World Village has been opened for 30 years, and the castle has over 140,000 stars placed on the ceiling by Stella. Though the reality of that is heartbreaking, it is also a happy No automatic alt text available.realization because that’s over 140,000 families that were given magic during undesirable times in their lives. While I was in the castle, a girl was proud to show me around and show me all the magic placed around the castle. After playing for a while I asked if she made a star, and she looks at me with a glow in her face and says, “my sister is the special one, so she got to make a star.” The castle is
the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Up above was full of stars colored differently, some not as happy as others, but the castle shows no matter what you are not alone; the castle ceiling full of stars shows acceptance.

Our last two days of service I worked in the kitchen again both days. Though that doesn’t sound like the most glamorous job I really enjoyed it. Volunteering at Give Kids the World is more about the bigger picture, which is making every aspect of this vacation for these families stress free and full of fun. I actually really enjoyed carrying trays for kids and talking to them one on one! I found light in every single child I interacted with, and I wouldn’t trade it with anything. One little girl ran around the kitchen stamping kissy faces on our hands. So so so many smiles that I will never forget.

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Volunteering at Give Kids the World is an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. It’s honestly so hard to describe the experience in words, but one thing I know is that it has touched my heart forever. While volunteering, I interacted with many children, and even though I knew the common factor of why the families were there, I never knew why the child was actually there. Looking at the children, I saw normal, happy children, and I think that speaks volumes. Some of these children were experiencing the worst, and most unpredictable situations, though they still continued to play, love, and laugh hard. A word I used a lot in this post was smile, because the amount of smiles I saw was unbelievable. I can’t imagine the fear and unknown the families we interacted with had, but one thing I know it was so inspiring to see their optimism. Seeing the happiness of the children showed me the true meaning of life, but in my eyes it was even more amazing to see how truly patient, caring, and supportive the parents and siblings were. The love that spread throughout the village was truly incredible to see and experience.

Give Kids the World Village motto is something I will forever live by after this amazing volunteer opportunity …  “where happiness inspires hope”. This will forever remind me that no matter what happens in life, no matter the situations, no matter the heartache life brings you, remember whenever you give happiness hope will be created. I am easily fearful of the littlest things, but after this week at Give Kids the World, I will never take anything for granted again. I learned the true meaning of love, support, and happiness at the village. I can honestly say the children, families, volunteers, and workers at Give Kids the World Village have changed my life

Thank you Give Kids the World Village for reminding me how important happiness, love, and hope in life truly is — and more importantly, thank you for showing me the real meaning of magic.

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LEAD TEAM: SOMI

This year I had the honors of serving as the CO-Chair with Hannah Rickers for the Special Olympics Michigan LEAD team. It has been my favorite and most rewarding leadership position at CMU so far. Hannah and I took a group to the 2015 SOMI Fall games, and facilitated an unified group together at the first ever Leadership Launch. The SOMI Lead Team was organized a little different this year due to the new event of Leadership Launch, and having such a time crunch from the start of the school year to the weekend of the fall games, but it ended up all working out perfectly.

The 2015 SOMI Fall Games: 

The fall games took place from September 25th – 27th located in Ypsilanti, MI. Hannah and I had trouble planning who was coming with us to the event, since only the Leadership Launch was required for our LEAD Team. The weekend also landed on a busy weekend with sorority recruitment weekend and the Michigan State VS. CMU football game at state. We tried to make sure our LEAD Team members understood the importance of this weekend, and many did end up coming with but we found more LAS members to take the place of students that could not attend. Even with last minute planning and cramming I really saw the weekend as a success. Every volunteer there was full of enthusiasm, passion, and professionalism; I was very proud of the group that came along. They showed me they truly cared about Special Olympics, and made such a difference at the games. I had a smile on my face the entire weekend because of the athletes I interacted with, as well as the outstanding personalities of our volunteers.

I was lucky enough to be one of the individuals that arrived before the games started to be a part of the Young Athlete program, which is my absolute favorite part of the fall games. The year before at Young Athletes I met a beautiful young girl named Abi who I feel in love with, and now I am still lucky enough to be in contact with her and her mother. Her mom could not attend the fall games with her this year, so we communicated to make sure I could spend the day with her at the program, since she was a very shy little girl. I was honored and excited to take care of her. We arrived a little late, but once I saw Abi we both ran to hug each other. All the teachers of her school knew I was coming, and welcomed me to hang out with Abi and her classmates. It was amazing to see the difference in Abi from a year before, she grew into a brave little girl who put a lot of trust in me. We got to play a ton of fun activities together, and her favorite was still soccer. Between each game they played music to move to the next station, and Abi and I loved to dance. Her laugh and smile was so beautiful to see, and I could not believe how much she has grown. Abi is truly an inspiration that I will never go a day without thinking about. She has inspired me to work with children, and continue to help young one’s growth and develop. I am so thankful Special Olympics has brought me to her. 

Then later that day it was Opening Ceremonies for the games, and my group of CMU students jobs were to welcome the athletes with happy and smiling facing. Many of us cheered and danced, and gave the athletes high fives as they walked into the room. It let me know that this weekend was going to be a great one. I was proud that everyone was showing so much energy and happiness, and most importantly acceptance.

Then the next day our LEAD Team was advised to volunteer with golf! Most of us were put into pairs then assigned golfers to drive around on golf carts and cheer them on as they played their round of golf. The golf course was HUGE, and beautiful, but very easy to get lost. I was placed with a female golfer named Ruth, and my volunteer pair was my mentee, Maddie. We had such a fun day getting to know Ruth. The day was full of laughter when I drove the golf cart to the wrong hole, or when we had to squeeze our three butts into a cart made for two people. We were lucky enough to let Dan Gaken capture a photo of us when we get stuck on a curb, Ruth laughed at me so hard. Ruth was also an amazing golfer, she ended up taking first place that day! Maddie and I were both so proud of her, and it was an amazing experience being a part of her day.

Then after our day volunteering with golf we got to be a part of the closing ceremonies, that was followed by a dance after that. Let me tell you, these athletes LOVE to dance. Being at the dance is way too much fun to describe. It’s a room full of so many smiles. It’s a room full of boys hitting on girls and asking them to dance, it’s just a hoot. I was lucky enough to even receive a few surprise kisses on the cheek from some athletes. I also never had an opportunity to be dancing alone, because everyone always has a part and everyone is always welcomed on the dance floor.                                   

The SOMI Fall Games is an opportunity that is hard to explain, and something you need to experience for yourself to understand. It’s a place where I found myself, and it’s a place where you are 100% accepted for who you are, and what you can do; not what you cant’t do. It’s a place where everyone loves everyone, and no one is left behind. It’s a weekend full of laughter and happiness, and I never want it to end. I volunteered with SOMI my first time freshmen year at the first ever fall games and I fell in love. I now continue to volunteer with the Special Olympics, because it’s the happiest thing to be a part of. Make volunteering with SOMI on your bucket list, you won’t regret the experience.

The 2015 Leadership Launch: 

The Leadership Launch was a new program that was created by a wonderful women named Kim Sampson. She created this event with the lovely Jesi Parker, that was accepted for approval at the SoGenUIn Summit at the World Special Olympics Games located in LA! Thanks to Kim and Jesi, Hannah and I got a be a big part of this new and improved created event. Kim envisioned an event where youth are activating youth to make a change. The Leadership Launch taught a group of unified (group with and without intellectual disabilities) students about leadership. Everyone was broken up into four different groups who went through four different group activities involving the topics of respect, inclusion, inspiration, and empowerment. 

Hannah and I facilitated the inclusion activity throughout the day, we did the (y)-knot activity. The group got into a circle, and was given a ball of yarn. The person with the yarn would have to say something about themselves, for example “I like to swim”, and then someone that likes that that too would say, “Me too!” Then you would pass the yarn to someone who had the same thing in common with you, while still holding onto a piece of yarn. In the end a huge web was created to show community and inclusion. The point was for everyone to understand we are all connected in someway. This was very cool for some students, especially for the students that tend to always feel left out. 

The thing I got out most of that day was seeing how empowered all the students were to make a change in their high school. So many of those students are left without a voice in their school and community, but still want to make a difference. When a group of students with and without intellectual disabilities comes together really creates significant change and it was just very amazing and inspiring to see. It was outstanding to see students help other students convey their thoughts and opinions, and to accept everyone’s ideas. All the students came from Michigan high schools who wanted to make a change, they want everyone to feel accepted and that’s truly life changing. A main thing we discussed throughout the day is that our generation is most accepting to people with disabilities, and that is HUGE! That is so important and so amazing, because this is the generation making the change for people with physical and intellectual disabilities. It’s truly amazing to be a part of that accepting movement.

I am so thankful and grateful for being a part of this LEAD Team and being involved with SOMI, I can’t thank the Leadership Institute and CMU for these amazing opportunities. 

Mentorship or Best Friend?

The Leader Advancement Scholarship here at CMU has brought me to very many great opportunities, and has helped me thrive as a leader — Though, I am most grateful for LAS giving me the chance to be a mentor to an outstanding individual, Maddie Karcher.

I remember over a year ago my cohort was just deciding and choosing who our mentees were going to be. People were nervous for the responsibility but looking forward to build that relationship. Some of us were taking it seriously and wanted to provide all the knowledge we had to this individual, but I remember thinking I am looking forward to making a new friend. Being a mentor is such a special experience that is hard to explain, it’s just such a wonderful feeling.

My mentee Maddie and I have different majors, with different end dreams but we still share common passions; we both always worry about others’ well-beings over own. We
are passionate about making society more accepting and loving, and that’s a special bond to have. Maddie and I first really bonded when we volunteered at the Michigan Special Olympics together, it was amazing to stand next to my mentee and share the same love for individuals with intellectual disabilities. The weekend at the SOMI games we shared many laughs, and it was so cool to see her step up and be a leader in a such an important community. She is really making this world a better and happier place.

I want to make a clear note that our signature picture is for me to go on her shoulders; that’s because she is the one that always seems to hold me up through everything. Maddie is such a strong, brave, passionate, and inspiring individual. She has a such a caring and hard working personality; it’s contagious. I always feel like she is the one giving me advice, or giving up something for me. The first weekend we spent together was at our LAS retreat weekend at Eagle Village. Over 80 of us had to sleep on cots on the floor or in bunk beds, but by the time we could claim our bed all the cots were gone. When it was time to go to bed we found one cot, but Maddie insisted I slept on it and wouldn’t take no for an answer. This story may seem silly, but it’s a story that exemplifies her personality. She is ALWAYS willing to give, her heart is huge and it’s so amazing to see and learn from. 

Also at Eagle Village it was such a cool experience to see Maddie put so much trust into my after such a little amount of time getting to know each other. At Eagle Village, each mentor and mentee pair goes up into a ropes course together, and it’s a little scary at first. I wasn’t nervous, but excited, but Maddie was on the more nervous side. Regardless of how nervous she was, she did it. She went up there with me and trusted me to guide her through all the scary moments. It was such a fun time, and I really think it showed us how our relationship was going to be. We needed each other, I am her mentor just as much as she is mine.

This mentorship has been so easy because she is my best friend. We compliment each other. We love and support each other, and to me that’s all that really matters. I know I am that person Maddie will go if she needs anything, and I know she is that exact same person for me. CMU and LAS has brought me to her, and that is what I am most grateful for. She is an individual I want standing in my wedding party someday, because she has changed my life so much. Becoming a mentor is a spectacular feeling, but it’s an even better feeling when that mentorship develops into a meaningful friendship.

Besides, how can I not lover her? She loves Hilary Duff just like I do (Well probably not as much as me :))

2014-2015 SCHOOL YEAR IN REVIEW

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What I stated I wanted in the year of 2015 . . .


As a leader what do you really want in
2015?
In 2015 I want to find who I really am. I am currently going in all different direction and hope to find the path I want to follow for the rest of my life. I want to find what I am truly passionate about and spend my time wisely. In 2015 I want to be me. Also I want to live by my mission statement: Live by helping others.

What will you succeed at in 2015?
I’ll succeed in being myself in 2015. I spent my life always too worried about what others think. But this year I want to improve on myself, and do things for me. I will succeed in being myself and embracing who I am. 2015 is going to be a good year for me, and I promise myself that.

I think so far in this school year and even in the year of 2015 I have really grown as a person and am starting to find where I belong. I finally decided to minor in Child Development with my major of Psychology to work with children for my career. I also learned I want to learn sign language and decided I also want to major in that as well. I am just really finding out a lot of different things about myself that I never knew before. I am also really focusing on me. I realized that college is an important time to do you and not let others hold you back. I am not letting anyone holding me back from my dreams and passions. I believe I am developing into the person I always dreamed to be. I am stepping out of my comfort zone into the unknown and I am loving it. I have started speaking my mind more frequently in places where it is important to me and my followers. For example, when people use the word retarded as a derogatory term I speak and state that is not okay. I am passionate accepting difference, and it is not okay to be using that word because it is offensive to so many. I also learned to stand up about all my other passions, and I think that is a big step for me. I was never not passionate about the things I am passionate about today, I was just always to afraid of confrontation to stand up for anything. My opinions might not be the most popular thing, but they are important. I am starting to strongly believe in myself and I am proud of that. I love the person I am learning to become. CMU has really taught me to take pride in my passions and not be as fearful.

This year in general has just been amazing. I was always excited to come to college because I was never popular in high school, but I would never think it would have helped me grow this much. I love that I am learning to open up and be myself. I also love that I am finding friends and people that accept me for me, and support myBLOG passion and dreams. I was always scared to be myself and I am so grateful for college showing me how to be myself. I am truly learning so much about myself and it’s an amazing feeling. I have grown over the years a lot, but this year I really found out who I am and who I want to be.

As a leader, I think it is really important to be true to yourself. I strongly believe in leading by example. If you don’t believe in a behavior or belief don’t promote or express that you do. This year I found my passion working with children, I figured out my major and minors, and I am finding where I want to spend my time. As a leader I am finding what I want to promote as my beliefs, and that is important to my followers. I am growing and learning where I want to make a difference and who I want to make a difference with. I will succeed with my mission statement of live by helping others, and my why statement of Inspire others to break their unwanted definitions of the past to find their full potential of the future.

I am growing as a leader, follower, friend, and person.