Freshman Tori Bates, like every other high-school student, looks forward to summer the moment school starts in August; however, Tori does not necessarily look forward to summer for the same reasons other students do.
Summer can feel long for copious people, which can make it all the more enjoyable, but it seems even longer when you have nothing to do with your time.
For Tori, finding a productive way to use her time was difficult at first, but two summers ago she found her passion: volunteering. With the help of her mom, Tori found the ideal opportunity for her.
“I volunteer at the Comprehensive Therapy Center,” Tori said. “Honestly, I was just bored over the summer, and I wanted something to do. Then I started doing it, and it was just so much fun.”
The Comprehensive Therapy Center focuses on assisting disabled people to walk, talk, learn, and play just like everyone around them.
The center has a myriad of programs throughout the year, but their major programs occur during each season.
“I help with their summer program; it’s called Therapy and Fun,” Tori said. “It is basically for kids that are developed mentally delayed.”
The Therapy and Fun program transpires from the end of June to the beginning of August.
For approximately two months, kids between the ages of one and fourteen spend a little over three hours creating new experiences that will help them through life at this non-profit organization. Though it is only a few weeks, this program greatly impacts every kid involved.
There is a range of areas to focus on for many kids, but Tori primarily works in the speech and occupational therapy section.
“I sit in as a peer, I guess, but more as a role model for them because they get really driven if they know their peers can do something and they can’t,” Tori said. “It just makes them really eager [to] try.”
The motivation of each kid at the center also motivates the volunteers to continue to try to make a difference.
Tori has found that each kid she helps also helps her in different ways.
“My understanding of different people with disabilities definitely has changed,” Tori said. “Before, I didn’t really know much about them, but, now, I feel like I have gotten really comfortable with people with disabilities and the whole speech and occupational therapy world.”
This new perspective of the world has inspired Tori to continue working with these kids this upcoming summer. That will make this year Tori’s third year of volunteering at the center.
However, even though Tori only has the chance to volunteer at the center over the summer, she carries each lesson with her through each day of her life.
“I feel like I always used these [experiences] in life,” Tori said, “it just gave me a different perspective of other people and that everybody has their own struggles, whether you can see them or not. It has given me an understanding of others who I might not have completely understood before.”
The new environment over the summer is filled with life-changing moments for Tori.
It is those special moments at the Comprehensive Therapy Center that make volunteering that much better for Tori. Each moment is unique, but there is one major experience that sticks out for Tori.
“My best experience is just getting to see kids that can’t talk, learn how to talk,” Tori said. “Something is just so special about getting somebody to say their own name and even just say ‘Hi, how are you?’ and for them to feel like this is me is just really special.”
It is those simple things such as talking and walking that various people take advantage of in their everyday life, but to each of the kids at the center, talking and walking is their entire life.
Achieving those goals that seem minuscule to some people give other people the hope to venture on.
Tori adores volunteering at the Comprehensive Therapy Center.
“I think [you should] try [volunteering], I feel like if it is for you, you’ll know it’s for you,” Tori said. “But if it’s not for you, that’s okay because you did something good with your time.”