Volunteer: Sisters earn award for time at WDSRA
Sandy Stevens email@example.com January 14, 2013 7:00PM
Catherine Carroll (left) and Jonel Carroll (right) pose with Naperville Mayor A. George Pradel (center) and other city officials after receiving the Youth Service Award on Nov. 14, 2012. | Submitted
Updated: February 17, 2013 6:16AM
What began as a confirmation requirement for Catherine Carroll evolved into an award for her and her sister but, more importantly, it’s led to an ongoing commitment.
Catherine, 15, and a freshman at Neuqua Valley High School, needed 20 hours community service in preparation for confirmation at Holy Spirit Catholic Community Church. She chose to volunteer with the Western DuPage Special Recreation Association.
Her 14-year-old sister Jonel, an eighth-grader at Crone Middle School, decided she’d begin volunteering, too. “I started early because I do almost everything with my sister,” Jonel said.
The duo recently was honored for their outstanding work with individuals with special needs, receiving the Naperville Youth Service Award at the city’s annual awards celebration.
Wendy Craven, WDSRA support services manager, said of the Carroll sisters, “They were so involved with the participants. Younger volunteers are often a little shy, but the girls just jumped in with no hesitation. Their enthusiasm for our population just came naturally.”
Catherine and Jonel helped with a variety of WDSRA programs, including the weekly Special Olympics Young Athlete program for ages 2-1/2 to 6, which requires one volunteer per child. That program took place on Saturdays, beginning mid-summer last year and continuing into the fall. The Carroll sisters also helped out with line dancing during the End of Summer Hoedown and the Kiwanis BBQ and pool party.
“I feel like it’s a fabulous opportunity for the participants to have social opportunities with others without being judged,” Catherine said. “I’ve seen incidents where people with disabilities have been mocked.”
“I really liked interacting with little kids, helping them play games and doing activities with them,” Jonel said. “It was an enjoyable experience.
Volunteering with WDSRA became a priority, Jonel said. “If I had a bad week, I knew I could have a good time at WDSRA. I really liked helping the kids, helping with their motor skills, and it was really fun to help out.
“From the beginning of the Move and Groove program, it was really nice to see the kids progress with their skills and progress through the activities.”
Catherine, a member of Neuqua Valley’s swim team and student council, also belongs to a swim club and a water polo team. Jonel is also a member of the Fox Valley swim team and plans to try out a part in the school musical, “Oliver.”
The sisters headed up a local Teens for Jeans drive for a national dosomething.org project that collects the garments for homeless children ages 5 to 18. This year the Carrolls plan to run the drive through at the high school, Catherine said.
Although Catherine needed just 20 hours of community service for her confirmation requirement, she tallied 24. But she’s chosen to continue volunteering with WDSRA and its clients this year.
“I thought it was fantastic for people like Jonel and me, because you find these people are so sweet and misunderstood,” she said. “You feel awful because they aren’t able to get these experiences everywhere, and I feel like they should be able to.”