My son’s going to be 8 next month. That’s eight years since the day Max was born, eight years since we found out he’d had a stroke at birth, eight years since doctors told us he might never walk or talk, eight years I’ve spent going to all sorts of specialists and doing all sorts of therapy for him.
It’s also eight years since I last did volunteer work.
My son, who has mild cerebral palsy, has been my charity project for eight years. Or so I’ve told myself. How could I find time to help anyone else when Max required so much attention? I had become a person who needed help, from the teen boys who came to visit my son through a volunteer program to the caregiver we got through the state.
Before I had kids, I did a fair amount of volunteer work. In college, I ran a toddler playgroup for a low-income housing community. In my twenties, I worked in the pediatric playroom of Sloan Kettering, a hospital that treats people for cancer. I’d do projects through New York Cares, and pitched in with a program that delivered meals to the elderly. Once, I spent Halloween at a home for kids with special needs.
Then I had my son. And I stopped volunteering and funneled every ounce of do-goodism into him.
Lately, though, I’ve been feeling totally crappy that I haven’t been volunteering—and ashamed. I’ve realized that having a kid with special needs is no excuse. Sure, I’m busy. Sure, my son needs serious help. Sure, I’ve donated money and toys to people and kids in need. Problem is, there are a whole lot of people out there who need hands-on help, especially these days. Besides, if I want to raise conscientious kids who care about the world around them—which I very much do—I’ve got to set a good example, and rope them in, too.
Last month, an organization that sponsors programs for kids with special needs, The Friendship Circle, asked if I’d fundraise for a charity walk. In previous years, I’d never participated. This year, I said yes. I set up a donor page. I sent out repeated emails and Facebook updates asking friends and coworkers for contributions. I went on the walk with my family. We raised $754.
I was damn proud.
The season of giving is coming up, and I am going to be looking for ways to volunteer—taking the kids to a soup kitchen, perhaps, or bringing toys over to a shelter. We’ll do something. Several things, hopefully.
This is an original post for Jersey Moms Blog. Ellen Seidman blogs daily at Love That Max. She is a New Jersey mom.