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It Takes a Village: Local Kids and the Spirit of Volunteerism

Local kids are demonstrating leadership by planning and participating in fundraisers.

Amanda Ulick, a sixth grader at Arrowhead Elementary School, has endured more than most kids her age.

At the age of 6, Amanda was diagnosed with Type 1 Juvenile Diabetes, which means she will be insulin dependent for the rest of her life. Just this year she has been hospitalized twice, but despite her struggles, Amanda has chosen to live her life according to this motto: "I Have Diabetes, Diabetes Doesn't Have Me!"

Each year Amanda puts together a team that walks in the annual JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes to raise money towards finding a cure.  This year, the walk will be held Oct. 16 at Hecksher State Park. Last year Amanda's team raised over $3,000 and had over 100 friends and family members walking with her at the walk. 

Amanda's mom, Tracy Ulick, said that her daughter's work and efforts for her team are better than any medicine.

"Amanda is such an inspiration to all of us. She even reaches out via the Internet to other children suffering with Type 1 juvenile diabetes and gives them support and encouragement," she said.

From a parent's point of view, getting children involved in volunteering can be an ideal way to expand their awareness of the world, help them learn important life skills like being responsible and organized, and develop leadership skills and a caring spirit. The spirit of volunteerism helps from a scientific point of view, too.

Dr. Stephen Post, a Three Village resident, Stony Brook professor and author of the book , said kids can benefit from volunteering just like adults do.

Post cited research that showed preteens who participate in volunteering are less likely to suffer from heart disease, had lower rates of depression, and were observed to be "more resilient" overall when life gets tough.

"As far as science goes, if you get involved in these activities early on, it’s good for you," he said. "People who are generous and have a kind of concern for their neighbor are typically more likely to do well in school."

He's even seen the effects of community service in his own 16-year-old son, who began volunteering at Stony Brook University Medical Center not long after their family moved to Long Island from suburban Ohio.

"It helped him navigate this move from Ohio when he was so stressed," Post said.

If you want to introduce your family to volunteering in the community, have a discussion with your child and find out what organizations or causes would inspire him or her to get involved.

Last winter, of Stony Brook helped mobilize her fellow Murphy Junior High students to raise money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation after she learned that a cousin of hers had been diagnosed with cancer. And eighth graders Kyle Mutschler and Daniel Roberts, both from Stony Brook, were inspired by two of their classmates at Murphy Junior High that were battling cancer. The boys learned of an organization, the St. Baldrick's Foundation, which has a unique kind of fundraiser each year. On April 7, 2011, Kyle and Daniel shaved their heads to stand in solidarity with kids fighting cancer and to raise money to find cures. Both boys together raised over $1900 for the foundation, and they said they plan on doing the fundraiser again this year.

Does your child volunteer for a worthwhile cause? Leave us a comment below to tell his or her story.

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