The Laurel Foundation is extremely fortunate to have the support of an outstanding volunteer base, who sacrifice their own personal time and resources to give back to children, youth and families affected by HIV/AIDS. It is only through this amazing group of selfless individuals that we are able to continue to provide free educational and support programs for the at-risk families we serve! It takes a very special kind of person to devote their vacation days, or take time off school, to volunteer, and today we want to take a moment to recognize one volunteer that has gone above and beyond even that high criteria.
Due to her incredible drive and dedication to supporting the families we serve, The Laurel Foundation is delighted to announce that our 2016 Volunteer of the Year is the one and only TATOR TOT!
To find out more about Tater Tot’s experience volunteering with The Laurel Foundation, we started by asking how she got involved in the first place.
I first found out about Camp Laurel through my friend, Laura (Cheese). We were grabbing food after work one day and I mentioned that I was trying to find ways to get involved in the community. Hearing that, Laura said that I had to give volunteering at Camp Laurel a try because I’d be a perfect fit for the program. Although I had never worked at a camp before, I knew that I liked working with kids from my experience as a classroom aid and working at a family family back in WA. The way that she spoke about Camp Laurel and the community it creates definitely got me interested, so I decided to apply.
I’m so glad it all worked out, because my phone interview to join my first camp was rough! Right before I was scheduled to call the office, my car broke down, leaving me stranded in the Santa Monica Library parking lot. I had to answer interview questions while muffling the sound of traffic and dodging people asking for donations!
Fortunately, despite her rough first call, Tater Tot showed to be a natural fit for our camp family and has been volunteering with us ever since. Not only is TaterTot an incredible asset to camp, she has also been an unbelievable support at our events throughout the year and at the office. No matter if its a project large or small, she never hesitates to step up and help out!
Nothings prepares you of the amazing community that makes up the Camp Laurel family.
I remember at my first camp training they pulled me and the other new counselors aside right when the day started. When we walked in to join the rest of the staff, everyone started singing the “we love you new counselors” song, and I was blown away. I thought, “what the heck have I just gotten myself into?!”
Since she joined The Laurel Foundation’s team in 2013, TaterTot has been a steady fixture at both camp and The Laurel Foundation’s year-round events. In fact, Tater Tot hasn’t missed a camp since she started volunteering at Camp Laurel!
In particular, I love the evening programs at Camp Laurel because you never know what you’re going to get with them! Anytime you run a big all-camp activity, you can be sure that something changes from what you had planned and that you’re going to have to be flexible and adjust. Thats one of the great things about volunteering at camp. I think, that you have to learn to let it go and just live in the moment.
We asked Tater Tot why coming back to Camp Laurel every year was so important to her, and her answer really touched our hearts:
I keep coming back to Camp Laurel because its so rewarding to get to know the campers through the different programs. As you keep coming back, campers begin to recognize you and you become a part of their lives. And every camp you get to know them a little better as well, which really gets you invested in these kids and their development as individuals. Its almost like they become a part of your extended family and every time you reconnect at camp is like a reunion.
My favorite part of camp is the unscheduled time you get with your campers in the cabins. Even though these aren’t the times when we’re doing all the fun camp programming, this is when you really get to know the kids you’re working with. When its just your cabin hanging out, they let you see their silly sides and who they are as individuals. This is when you really get to see them grow.
TaterTot, the positivity, compassion, and dedication you bring to everything you do is an inspiration to witness. Thanks for being the amazing person you are! We’re so lucky to have you on The Laurel Foundation team!