YMCA Stories

October 25, 2013

Fresh Start: Kevin Henry

Kevin Henry poses during his birthday partyKevin Henry, 14, has been struggling in school for years, in part because of his difficult home life. A chance encounter with Donna Stoner, a longtime YMCA supporter and donor, changed his life.

Kevin had recently moved into his grandparents' home, providing a more stable environment for him, but his schools still couldn’t tolerate his bad behavior. He was in the Syracuse City School District’s homebound program based at Hillside, when he met Donna, who had begun a volunteer gardening program there.

Kevin approached Donna as she was planting flowers. She let him rub a verbena leaf, making his fingers smell of lemon. She suggested he take some leaves with him so that he could rub them whenever he got upset.

Over time, Donna became Kevin’s mentor. They meet regularly to read, draw and garden, and to talk through any difficulties he’s having.

At Lincoln Middle School last spring, Kevin’s behavior began to improve. But with the upcoming summer, Donna feared, the structure that had supported Kevin for several months would fray. She turned to the Y for help.

“I went to camp when I was a child,” Donna said. “I knew that if we could figure out how to get Kevin to a good camp, he’d be alright.”

Chris Nucerino, executive director of the East Area Family YMCA, offered Kevin a need-based scholarship to attend Camp Iroquois in Manlius.

Donna organized a group of friends. Together, they made sure that Kevin got to camp each day, that he had a lunch and proper clothing, and that he felt supported in his adventure. Each morning, Kevin was ready to go. He didn’t miss one of the 39 days of camp.

At Camp Iroquois, he enjoyed rock climbing, horseback riding, swimming, kayaking and singing. He played games, walked on the trails and learned the traditions of the camp. His behavior was exemplary.

“He was identified as having good leadership potential,” Donna said. “Every day was a great day for Kevin at Camp Iroquois.”

Asked to describe his experiences at camp on a scale of 1-10, Kevin said, “Beyond 10.”

Kevin plays basketball at the East Area Family YMCA. His behavior at school has improved so much that he even qualified for the school basketball team.

“He’s more confident,” Donna said. “He and I are grateful to the YMCA and everyone who helped him take some important steps in the right direction.”

PHOTO CAPTION: During his birthday party at the East Area Y, Kevin Henry poses with Wayne O’Connor, director of the Hillside Work/ Scholarship Connection.

Filed under Camping
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