Archive for Wednesday, February 20, 2002

YouthFriend battles illnesses to volunteer time

February 20, 2002

Judy White volunteer's for a second-grade class and sometimes uses a motor scooter to get to Glenwood Ridge Elementary School.

Depending on the weather, that is.

On this day, however, her legs feel well and she decides to make the walk from her home in Glenwood Estates to the nearby school.

White was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1993. She is also diabetic and requires three insulin shots a day.

Despite her medical conditions, White devotes her Tuesday afternoons to younger students at GRE.

White, 59, is a part of the Basehor-Linwood School District YouthFriends program, a mentoring program that places adult volunteers with students of all ages.

Most days, White helps in GRE second-grade teacher Juli Brown's classroom.

Brown said she and the students love having White in the classroom.

"She's awesome with the kids," Brown said. "She is so patient and so attentive to them. A lot of the times the kids argue over who gets to see her first.

"She has that grandma touch. Caring but focused."

White's granddaughter, 8-year-old Rachel Van Fleet, is in Brown's class. Van Fleet said she likes having her grandmother in her class.

"She doesn't have anything to do so she just comes to visit my class," Van Fleet said. "Me and my friends like it when she comes."

Some days, White said she doesn't feel well because of the medication she is must take.

And although there haven't been many of those days, White said she comes in regardless.

"There hasn't been that many, but there are some days that I'm not functioning as well as others," she said.

White said her conditions limit her activities, but the YouthFriends program was something she wanted to do nonetheless.

"With Parkinson's I'm limited as far as activities go," she said. "But I love chilchildren and I have a grandchild in here. It's been good for me and good for the children."

White said she would continue in the YouthFriends program for as long as she can.

"This helps a great deal," White said. "Sometimes it is really beneficial."

The YouthFriends program started in six greater Kansas City area school districts in 1995. Since then, the program has spread to hundreds of schools in eastern Kansas and western Missouri.

The program first began in the Basehor-Linwood School District in 2001.

Since then, the program has placed volunteer mentors in each school in the Basehor-Linwood district. Local YouthFriends officials said the program serves more than 700 students.

Volunteers have also logged more than 2,000 hours this year, according to statistics.

Belinda Kraemer, a YouthFriend volunteer who works with students at GRE and Basehor-Linwood High School, said the program is always looking for more volunteers.

Volunteers are especially needed at the high school and middle school, she said.

"I highly recommend this program to people who enjoy being around children," she said.

If anyone is interested in being a YouthFriend, please contact the district office at (913) 724-2348.

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