When Maintenance Connection charged the staff to submit proposals for a 2016 MC Gives Back trip, I knew I wanted to submit a proposal. I also knew that based on the time, effort, and work it would take to create what I was envisioning, this project would require more than just one leader. I immediately reached out to Amanda Aldrich. I just had a very good feeling that Amanda and I would make a great team. After spending so much time with her, Amanda is now like a sister to me, and one my MC BFFs. She was just as enthusiastic as I was about the potential opportunity to lead an MC Gives Back team trip.


Right of the bat, we knew we wanted to do something with kids, as both of us had a background working with youth. We wanted to create something special and one-of-kind. We decided to put on a summer camp!


Once we figured out what we wanted to do, we needed to select the perfect place for the camp. We searched and searched all over the country until we found that perfect place: The St. Vincent Home for Children in St. Louis.  Neither Amanda nor I had any ties to St. Vincent, but we immediately had a gut feeling that St. Vincent was going to be the right spot. The very first time we contacted them, there was an instant connection. They were incredibly receptive to our ideas and understood when we were trying to do. Amanda and I began to develop the camp programming by listening to what their needs were, and what they were envisioning for our summer event. Throughout the months leading up to the Kids Camp, we had many active discussions with St. Vincent on planning, programming, and the obstacles we might face. We wanted to make sure we utilized our time so it would be the most beneficial for both the kids and the staff at St. Vincent.


Our camp centered around goal setting. We created courses for the kids to help them reach their goals. There was a lot preparation that went into designing these courses. We wanted to be able to create a lasting effect so they could look back and use the courses as a resource long after our time there had finished.  The goals included finding and securing a job, and health, fitness, and money management.


We had loads of fun facilitating team building exercises, games, activities, and competitions. Prior to our arrival, we had tons of board games, card games, corn-hole, and a giant Jenga set sent to St. Vincent that we donated. Some of the memorable moments included taking all the staff and kids to a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game, and an obstacle course that included fun events such as pop-corn push-ups, slack line skills, bobbing for apples, and cardio activities.


While we spent most of our time with the kids playing pick-up basketball games, eating lunch, and doing arts and crafts, we also found time to give their living quarters a fresh coat of paint and furnish their new Zen relaxation room.  However, the most rewarding and memorable part was seeing the kids open up more and more each day as the camp went on. Even kids that started out as disinterested were sharing their hopes and dreams with us by the end.


We put our entire heart and soul into planning and executing this event, without any way of knowing how well it would go. The fact that we were welcomed with opened arms and left with teary-eyed hugs made the experience that much more rewarding.


St. Vincent is a special place that the MC Gives Back St. Louis team will always have in their hearts. When Amanda and I submitted our proposal way back in November of 2015, our goal was to create a unique, impactful, and intimate experience. And now finally after 8 months I can say, mission accomplished.


-Andrew Stolz


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