A Week of Life-Changing Experiences.

By: Lauren Tadych, Sophomore

It can be difficult to break out of your comfort zone. It can be challenging to sign up for a weeklong trip with 10 people you’ve never encountered. But, after doing it last year in North Carolina working with Habitat for Humanity, I knew I had to sign up for another BREAKAWAY trip this year. I decided to go on the Washington D.C. trip with Center for Student Missions! For me, it was important to choose a place where I have never been. D.C. is very similar to Chicago in that there is gentrification. Basically, the neighborhoods are increasing in price and people who once could afford to live there no longer can which forces them out and as a result many of them end up on the streets. As a team, we quickly realized our purpose for going on the trip to D.C. was the same—to gain a new perspective and to be able to impact a life.34409837326_1097a482f3_o

Every day was a jam-packed schedule. It was a program set up so we could use every bit of time that we had to get the most out of our experience. One of the best activities we did was actually the very first one. We each packed a lunch and went to the train station to share a lunch with someone who looked like they could use the company. Two other girls and I decided we would walk together, and we met some wonderful people by simply offering them lunch and company. These were people who lived off the street and as we joined them in conversation they were genuinely caught off guard that we were talking to them and treating them like real people. I took time to think about our conversations and realized that it didn’t matter what we were talking about, it just mattered that we approached them and got the opportunity to speak with them. Even though talking with them made my day so much better, I know they appreciated the company even more.

34291765932_c3b2b18d5a_oWe also had the opportunity to help at a food kitchen that served breakfast to the homeless community every morning. I met a beautiful soul named Tony who had so much friendly energy—he could put a smile on any face. I got the opportunity to share a meal with him as he willingly opened up to me about some pretty serious things. He told me about his sobriety from heroine, his illnesses, about his kids who he doesn’t get to see often, and his relationship with God. He really opened my eyes to what matters the most in life and what really doesn’t. His positive attitude helped me see that nothing is so bad if you can take it and turn it into a positive. I feel incredibly blessed that I was able to meet him and get to talk to him even for a short period. Meeting Tony is something that I’ll never forget.34409747246_2eb3eea9b8_o

I had so many life-changing experiences while in D.C. for one week than I’ve had in my entire life. I built friendships with people who believe in the same things I do and some of them who don’t, and I got to make connections with people who I never would have known. I got to see the beauty of D.C. and I got to strengthen my relationship with God.

So stepping out of what’s comfortable, meeting a group of strangers, traveling to a new place, talking to the homeless, serving in new ways…well, it’s worth it and you should try it too.

Service Touches My Heart: A Reflection on Intersection 2016

Wes Ellis, Senior and Vice President of Cardinals in Action

The music is booming, and my new friends and I are pulling out ALL of the stops on the dance floor.  The sprinkler.  The cabbage patch.  The funky chicken.  The running man.  Even the Whip/Nae Nae!  I’m a big boy, so after approximately 2 minutes of continuous dancing, I need to take a seat and catch my breath.  While catching my breath, I survey my surroundings.  The atmosphere is electric, and the room is filled with nothing but smiles and laughter.


Last Saturday, I—along with many volunteers from Intersection (North Central’s Day of Service)—helped to set-up and facilitate a big carnival for the special needs community to enjoy through an organization called Touch my HeartThe carnival featured many games and activities: basketball, beanbags, dancing, hockey, face painting, dancing, coloring books, a bounce house, balloon animals, and dancing to name just a few!  (The dancing was a real hit for me if you’ve yet to figure that out.)

All joking aside, the dance floor was truly where some of the most special momentsoccurred during this event.  Here, volunteers and carnival attendees came together to have a great time.  I met a friend who loved to high-five to the beat of the music.  Another friend was a master at lip-syncing all of the Michael Jackson classics.


I couldn’t help but feel that the dance floor helped to create an immediate sense of community amongst people who wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to interact otherwise.  Isn’t that awesome?  Plus, I racked up over 20,000 steps on my Fit Bit that day.  Boom.

Volunteering with Touch my Heart, simply put, touched my heart!  We were able to give people with special needs a fun, safe environment in which they could enjoy themselves.  Just through giving a few hours of our time at Intersection, we were able to make a big impact.


I desperately want my family, friends, and peers to realize that service is not an entirely selfless activity.  In fact, it can be selfish.  That may sound radical, but through my experiences in volunteering, I know this to be true.  Do you notice how I’ve written a lot about myself and how volunteering made me feel rather than focusing on others?  That’s because it made me feel…a lot!  Good feels.

I was able to take away something from Intersection, just as I am able to take away something from every service experience.  I fervently believe that service is just as enriching for the volunteer as it is for the person in need.  My experience at Intersection just furthered that belief.

My only regret?  I didn’t play in the bounce house.  What was I thinking?!


Photo rights: Touch My Heart