By Sarah Bookwalter, Horton’s Kids Committee member
This is my sixth year volunteering with Horton’s Kids and I can’t imagine working on another committee. Horton’s Kids is a community-based organization that serves 500 children, grades K through 12, living in an isolated neighborhood in Washington, DC’s Ward 8. Horton’s Kids children face numerous challenges. They live in one of the most at-risk communities in Washington, Wellington Park, which has one of the highest violent crime rates in the city. Only 19% of adults have a high school diploma, and only 15% of elementary students read at grade level.
In response to these needs, Horton’s Kids provides a comprehensive model of support with the goal of seeing every child graduate from high school ready for college, career, and life. The Junior League of Washington (JLW) plays an important role working with Horton’s Kids children regularly through tutoring and weekend field trips.
Members of the Horton’s Kids Committee are provided with a variety of volunteer opportunities, in addition to three holiday parties, which are organized, planned, and executed by committee members. Members of the committee may volunteer at weekday tutoring on Monday or Tuesday evenings from 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. as well as attended a variety of field trips as chaperones. At tutoring, the volunteers work with Horton’s Kidsstudent to ensure homework gets an “A” grade and improve their literacy skills through games, creative writing, and general reading.
At field trips ranging from hay rides at Cox Farms to making healthy choices at JLW’s own Kids in the Kitchen health fair, the members serve as chaperones and safety nets of encouragement to foster growth and development, assisting in the generation of opportunities that traditionally the children of Wellington Park would usually miss.
Whether the Horton’s KidsCommittee members are passing out turkeys, painting children’s faces, or just taking a child’s hand to guide them through the halls of the Rayburn House Building to tutoring every interaction is an opportunity to make a positive difference in an at-risk child’s life right in our own Washington, DC community.
In December, we showed you our Horton’s Kids holiday party. Another highlight is our annual Halloween party, which is one of my favorite activities for the year! For these special holiday/themed events, we arrive early to set up the Caucus Room – a historic room built to impress with chandeliers, gilded moldings and Corinthian pilasters. Most often used for hosting luncheons, receptions, and committee meetings, JLW transforms this grand space into a festive atmosphere for the Horton’s Kids to be safe, have fun and of course – stock up on sweet treats!
The children arrive to the party in style – sprinting from the bus through the underground halls and tunnels of the historic buildings home to Members of Congress – to decorate crafts.. While we always encourage a bit of healthy eating – there’s never a shortage of goodies. The energy level is spirited throughout the afternoon, and as the kids line up to head back to their buses, you can hear the cheer in each of their voices.
While much of the support we provide to Horton’s Kids is geared to supporting learning and education, the holiday parties JLW helps to throw gives these kids an opportunity to experience something new and a chance to enjoy their childhood.