DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – With summer flying by, preparations are already well underway for the new school year.
At Youth World’s Summer Camp in South Oak Cliff, campers will end the summer with more than just memories: they’re all going home with brand new sneakers.
“This is the funnest camp ever!” gushed 9-year-old Lynijah– and then she got new shoes for school to add to joy.
The summer camp includes efforts to help students– many of them economically disadvantaged– find steady footing in an uncertain world– starting with new sneakers.
The distribution was part controlled chaos and part “Christmas in July” as campers were fitted with their new shoes.
When asked how she was feeling, Katelyn, 9, was impassioned, saying, “So happy!”
Youth World Founder Darla Shirley has been quietly working to impact the lives of at risk kids for more than two decades.
“You don’t know if that’s their one pair of shoes,” explains Shirley. “This could be the shoe that they’re going back to school with, we do take too much for granted, for sure.”
“I really needed them because my shoes were broken,” shared Briana, 9. “I really needed new stuff for school.”
Shirley is quick to stress that the camp would not be possible without the support of generous donors, volunteers,and dedicated staff.
“They drive me crazy, but I love them,” shared counselor Yomira Smith with an affectionate laugh.
Smith grew serious when asked how it felt to see children so excited, and so grateful for something so simple as a new pair of shoes.
“Don’t even get me started,” says Smith with sudden seriousness. “You can see the joy… you can see the thankfulness.”
And that includes the parents.
“When a mama comes up and says, ‘you blessed our family… you’ve helped with our kids, helped relieve financial burdens even through the day to day things’,” recalls Shirley. “That’s when we know we’re at the right place at the right time. Let’s keep going.”
The free camp does more than keep students engaged during the summer break, the goal is to have them leave encouraged as well.
“When their little heart feels hopeless, I hope it motivates them to keep going,” says Smith.