Helping Newtown Children Heal

Wesley Homes Des Moines resident Janey Smith will be heading to Newtown, CT, this month to volunteer at Camp Noah, a nationwide day camp for children who have experienced disaster. Camp Noah provides school children with a minimum of 30 hours of therapeutic, play-focused creative activities. The Newtown curriculum contains materials and activities for five days of morning and afternoon sessions. Each session builds on the previous day so that children have time to tell their stories and build necessary resiliency skills. Janey applied seven months ago to be a volunteer. It was through Senior Pastor Melvin W. Kawakami and his secretary, Barb Carlson, that this opportunity came about through the Lutheran Church. Contributions from church members and friends helped pay for Janey’s airline ticket. “I am thankful that I have been selected to participate in this healing process for a community that faced a large loss of lives,” said Janey. “I hope to meet and visit with people like Scarlett Lewis, who lost her six year old son on December 14th. Scarlett has been able to take this tragic event and find a way to create something positive in the aftermath. She works to show children that we can choose love over anger, gratitude over entitlement and forgiveness and compassion over bitterness.” Janey felt an immediate need to send love and sympathy to Newtown. She spearheaded a book signing of “Wheedle on the Needle” so that Wesley Homes’ residents and staff could send love and support to the children of Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown. The book and its 300+ signatures were accompanied by a letter from Wesley Homes’ President & CEO Kevin Anderson to express our hope for the healing of their community. The Newtown United Methodist Church, led by Pastor Kawakami, responded with a lovely thank you letter. “I haven’t even left yet, but I’ve already learned three main things,” said Janey. “I’m going into a community that is grounded in hope and empowerment, not tragedy; the campers will celebrate their own unique gifts and know they are survivors; and it takes a community to provide an atmosphere to heal. Anywhere we stand with children, we stand on sacred ground.”

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