Tell me what you think is the success of our future? Name one thing more important than anything else. My confidence in this answer is high. I know the answer lies in our children. How do I know this? Because I have spent my life working with kids. There is no greater asset to our society.
My name is Deb Winn and I’ve been the Program Manager beginning before we opened our doors in 2015. I came to be a part of the Children’s Healing Center’s family while brainstorming, researching, planning, and fundraising. As part of the board we worked hard to make my daughter’s dream a reality. We even hosted programs before we had a building to call home. Before the center came to be, the education of young children was my passion. From teaching Sunday school at IHM and Religious Education for six years to mentoring children with Arbor Circle and Big Brothers/Big Sister to volunteering in my daughters’ classrooms. For eight years I lead the Forest Hills youth cheerleading program. I have always been drawn to helping kids.
“Children are the legacy we leave behind to make the world a better place.” Deb Winn, Program Manager
After teaching preschool children for eighteen years, I saw many situations where children could fall behind. Sometimes it was economics, other times it was problems with focusing. The importance of continuing education when a child has a long-term illness or is going through treatment isn’t just a need, it’s a must. Learning is the easiest and most impactful during a child’s youngest years. Beginning from birth to age three, then to elementary and finally into adolescence, gaps in education can really be a hard obstacle to overcome. Do you ever wonder why children can play an instrument or learn a second language so easily? It’s because their brains are like sponges and can absorb everything. Those synapses are firing in their brains the most when they are the youngest.
How do we accomplish this? Through play-based learning. The way toddlers and preschoolers process their world is through play. They play house, doctor office, birthday party and more. This is so great to watch; they are growing their brain while interacting and socializing with peers. Counting, singing, sharing, taking turns, reasoning, being kind- all while putting their thoughts in order. The way tweens and teens do this is by hanging out, sometimes working on group projects, other times just sitting side by side and having some conversation. Play is vital to every child’s well-being.
One of my favorite programs at the Center is the book club. It’s comprised of a small group of 7 to 10 year-olds reading together, sharing their thoughts and ideas, all while diving into some deep subjects like bullying, cliques, pressure to get good grades, etc. The favorite thing they share about the club is choosing what they get to do. They complain that often they are told what they have to do. In the book club they choose the snack, the art project, and the games they play. It helps them feel more in control of their life. What a great bonding experience this is for kids that often feel like an outcast by their peers and overlooked by adults.
As the Center continues to grow in family members and attendance, there continues to be a need for more programs. Not just any program, but ones that help our children socially, emotionally and academically. We must be cognizant that while our goal is fun, we will also focus on education and learning. This past year, we introduced study buddies where kids can get help with homework. We rolled out a national program, Sibshop, designed for siblings to participate in a support group/workshop. We added Little Tot’s University, a preschool for little ones: ages 2.5 to 5 years and STEAM is a component in our camps and Saturday sessions.
Children’s Healing Center is more than a building, it’s the people who make it a place of healing.
It’s a place of learning, a place for make-believe, a place to engage with others, a place to hang out and a place for kids to be whomever they want to be.