By Christine Ennulat, with reporting by Vanessa Farrow, Kid Connections SR/Enrollment Specialist
When Northeastern State University student Chris Ridge-Blair went home for the holidays, he spent part of his vacation giving back.
Growing up in Tahlequah, Okla., Chris, now 21, was sponsored through ChildFund and participated in programs offered by ChildFund affiliate Kid Connections. He returned there to volunteer during December. “I like helping people if I can,” says Chris. “I enjoyed my childhood memories of Kid Connections, and I want to help in keeping that going for other children.”
Kid Connections not only provided programming that empowered Chris as a child, but it also supported the highly intelligent youth’s academic aspirations for when he would age out of the program. Kid Connections even paid for his ACT testing to support his college applications.
Chris credits his after-school experiences in Kid Connections’ computer lab with the track he is on now — he’ll choose some specialty in computer science. “I’ve known that ever since I was little,” he says. “The first time I really got to use a computer was at ChildFund in my town.” His dream is to start a computer store in Tahlequah, but he sees himself more likely ending up at a large computer company somewhere in Oklahoma. “I would love to work for Google,” he adds. “I’m a big fan.”
This December, the more immediate work was on behalf of Kid Connections, helping with the holiday rush of cards, letters, gifts and checks. “When youth like Chris come back to their hometown community and volunteer their time, they are more than just an extra pair of hands to gift wrap or help complete Child Progress Reports,” says Kid Connections’ enrollment specialist Vanessa Farrow. “They are leaders and role models for the children most in need of them.”
As for Chris, he knows firsthand what a worthy cause he’s supporting with his time. “The things that Kid Connections has to offer are great and needed, especially these days — to bring kids together and give them something to do besides get in trouble,” he says. And he is happy to provide, or be, proof.