As a young child, Emily suffered from severe anxiety. As a result of this, she never ventured out of her comfort zone. In elementary school she found a safe haven in a very unexpected place.
A woman from her church always told Emily that when she was having panic attacks Emily could go to her classroom. This woman taught special education. After time Emily began to enjoy going to her class. The teacher would let Emily assist her students. Over time, Emily started choosing to go help her instead of going to recess.
Over the coming years, Emily continued to grow her connection to the special needs community. By junior year of high school, Emily was babysitting for a lot of families. She started hearing stories of the family problems that could arise because of the stress of having children with special needs – challenges with siblings and parental divorce being a few.
Emily thought that if she could create a program that would provide parents with a breather, maybe this would help. Named Angelcare, it was a once a month parent’s night out. Not only did children get paired up with a buddy (volunteer) but also so did their siblings. The parents then got a 3-hour night out with free childcare.
Emily’s purpose to help special needs children has greatly expanded her comfort zone. For two summers she has volunteered in South Africa to help at a special needs school. She also helped the local Christian ministry after the school day was over. She has come a long way from her playground anxiety!
Emily, what inspired you to find your purpose?
I wanted to help those families that had grown so dear to me. I wanted to give them the chance to have a “normal” night out to connect with each other without worrying about their kids. Many families to this day still say what a blessing it was to their family and how it really gave them the peace of mind they needed.
What did you get out of discovering your purpose?
I got a sense of peace. I felt like helping these children and their families succeed was what I was meant to do all along. These kids need someone to believe in them and I can be that person. These families need support and I can be that person. It’s all about taking something you love and running with it.
So many families looked forward to this once a month program I had created. I looked forward to seeing the faces of all of the kids and siblings who would come for those nights.
Who has supported you in this journey?
My family, my friends, and the whole special needs community in my area. I invited people to volunteer and they stepped up to help. They were happy to do this. Helping others makes people feel good. So while you are asking them to do you a favor, in some ways you are doing them a favor too.
What kind of advice do you have to share with youth who are still searching for purpose?
Think of what you love and think of something good you can do with it. Those are the key words: do good and be the good. Follow your passion and what drives you and see if maybe it can help drive others as well.
Emily, thanks for sharing your story of purpose with us. We appreciate what you bring to the world.