On Wednesday, more than 1,200 parents and children will descend upon the Naperville Municipal Center at the 9th annual KidsMatter Youth Volunteer Fair for students in grades 6 through 12. Waiting for these anxious volunteers will be representatives from 28 local non-profit organizations eager to showcase their unique volunteer and advocacy opportunities.
“This is just a great opportunity to introduce kids to volunteering,” Viveka Ross, Marketing and Events Manager for KidsMatter said. “For kids that are interested in volunteering, the Volunteer Fair makes it easy for them to navigate what’s out there. We have volunteer opportunities for all interests under one roof.”
From 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., prospective volunteers can meet with agency representatives, ask questions and find the right fit to match their interests, major and career goals.
Sophomore and volunteer veteran Kevin Conne has attended the fair in the past but this year he’ll be on the other side of the table.
“I went to the fair a few years ago and from there I began volunteering on a regular basis for Feed My Starving Children,” Conne said. “This year, my mom and I will be working the Fair for Feed My Starving Children. Having gone to the fair looking for volunteer opportunities and now looking for volunteers, I know what to look for in a volunteer.”
Noting that not a lot of kids his age volunteer, Conne said he thoroughly enjoys it and that it has become a way of life for his entire family.
“I was brought up to volunteer,” Conne said. “I volunteered with my aunt as a kid and my whole extended family went to a Feed My Starving Children event.”
“I think volunteering is very important,” Conne added. “Obviously, you are helping other people and that in itself is rewarding. It is something that I do that I never want to change. It has become such a common thing that I know I’ll do it forever.”
Conne’s comments are precisely what organizers of the Fair like to hear.
“Our goal is to help young people realize that they can impact other people's lives in positive ways, build their self-esteem and inspire a service ethic to grow within their lives,” Ross said. “Research has shown that these early contributors are the adults who will volunteer and give back in later years.”
In addition to volunteer opportunities at the fair, organizers will also be collecting gently used shoes as part of Share your Soles’ "We can't walk in their shoes - let them walk in ours" program. All shoes collected will be distributed to needy kids and adults in third world countries.
Represented at the volunteer fair this year will be locally-based groups such as Naper Settlement, NCO Youth and Family Services (soon to be called 360 Youth Services), American Cancer Society, Feed My Starving Children, the YMCA, The Morton Arboretum, Will County Forest Preserve, the DuPage Children's Museum and many more.