Homeless Health Initiative (HHI) volunteers make our programs happen! One of our long-standing partnerships is with Villanova University. These undergraduate student volunteers help us run the weekly SPARK (Safe Physical Activity and Recreation for Kids) programming at St. Barnabas Mission. They give our families and kids one-on-one attention, get everyone moving and help them have fun.

We asked some of the volunteers why they come, week after week, to help the children get active, have fun and learn the benefits of physical activity and healthy eating.

Abbey, who has been coming to SPARK for four years, says she has learned from the kids at the shelter about being a grateful, positive person. She tells a story about when around Thanksgiving, she saw the drawings the children made about being thankful. “Many of the kids, just 6 or 7 years old, wrote that they were thankful for waking up in the morning or for their moms. I’ve learned so much from the kids.”

Bukkie, who is a two-year veteran of SPARK volunteering, found out about HHI from the Villanova community outreach program. She says she was drawn to the mission of the SPARK program and loves working with the kids. During her first year, Bukkie says, a little girl came up to her and said SPARK was her favorite part of the week. The girl thanked Bukkie for coming to play with her. Bukkie says she loves watching the kids get excited about new games and being physically active.

We’re thankful to Villanova University and the individual student volunteers and look forward to many more years of partnership and fun!