Last Thursday afternoon, the sounds of roughly 50 children filled the Boys & Girls Club of Lead-Deadwood. The club, one of three in the Black Hills, provides a safe place for children to go when they don’t have another after-school care option. The program relies heavily on volunteers to help kids with homework and provide other activities.
Volunteering that afternoon, as they have every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon for five months, were Deb Heupel and Traci Matthew of Regional Health. Traci, Manager of Ambulatory Operations for the medical clinic in Lead-Deadwood, was searching for volunteer opportunities last year when she noticed the Boys & Girls Club was in great need. She asked Deb, Supervisor of Patient Financial Services at Lead-Deadwood Hospital, to help her provide a way for the kids to be active after school.
“We have an obesity crisis in this country, so we’re just trying to help keep the kids moving while also teaching them responsibility and respect, which is what the Boys & Girls Club is all about,” said Traci.
The two adapted a national program called “Run Across the USA”. They call their initiative “Move Across South Dakota” to get kids moving both indoors or outdoors. Children who regularly participate receive medals for logging so many miles. From October through January, 124 kids participated in activities led by Deb and Traci, and 29 received medals. The caregivers also educate the kids on personal health whenever possible, reminding them to follow simple rules like washing hands and using sanitizer.
“It’s been really rewarding,” said Traci. “Sometimes the kids run up to you and give you a hug. They are always excited to see us.” She also mentioned that Regional Health’s emphasis on community service helps reinforce the importance of volunteering.
“Volunteering in your community is really important,” said Deb, who is originally from Lead. “Kids in our area are pretty limited in terms of what there is to do after school or in the evenings - I know since my kids grew up here - so this place is important because it provides somewhere for kids to go.”
Deb and Traci are looking forward to enlisting help from other Lead-Deadwood caregivers for next school year, so they can sustain their efforts.