The "My Room" program came about years ago because of great need. There was a particular young man in our group who I became very well aquainted with. I was involved with his schooling, his nutrition, and other activities in his life. I taught Firearms Safety Training back then, and he was in my class. I would pick him up and drop him off.
One night I dropped him off at 9:45pm after class. This was a school night, and he was 11 years old. He jumped from my car into a car full of much older teenagers, laughing at my insistence he go in the house and go to bed. Off they went into the night with no one at home to tell him otherwise, or even know he was gone.
The next time I dropped him off I went into the house--the first time I had been inside. I asked him to show me his room. They lived in a small trailer home, and his bedroom was what had originally been two. They had taken the wall out between, but never finished the job. There were those hideously sharp carpet tack strips exposed, and wires hanging from the cieling going to outlets duct taped to the adjacent walls. There was a big hole in the floor covered with a piece of plywood, and a hole in an interior wall. Old broken-down blinds half covered broken windows, and the doors had all been torn from their hinges. His bed was an old stained mattress laying on tattered and stained carpet. He had no bedding other than one old blanket, and an old, flat, stained pillow with no pillow case.
This is what this great kid had to go home to every night, and where he lay his weary head after fighting off the challenges of the day.
I decided it was time to get more involved. Some money just happened to fall in my lap for the Trail Guards right around then, so we did our first bedroom makeover.
It was great. We patched the floor and walls, fixed the windows, rewired, repaired all the doors, installed new light fixtures, painted, installed brand new carpeting, put up window dressings, bought a like-new used bed, bought a small desk and desk lamp, bought a brand new pillow and bedding, restored a used dresser, and gave him a room as nice as any brand new trailer house had to offer.
As we were working, I kept thinking what a good thing this was--how it could change the life of a kid. I thought of making it an annual project, but needed a catchy name. He provided that for me.
When we finished he went running around the trailer park yelling at the top of his lungs, "Come see my room! Come see my room! My room is done; come and see it!" "That's it," I thought, and it's been the "My Room" project ever since. And of all the things we do at Trail Guards--and we do a lot-- the My Room project remains one of the most rewarding things we do.
It has little to do with the outdoors, environmental awareness, or physical challenge. But it has everything to do with a kid's personal awareness. Learning that people, especially people outside their normal circle of friends and relatives, can respect and honor them and help bring comfort and normalcy to their life is something that will never leave them. It's a core foundation builder that becomes part of them.
As time goes on, the circumstances have usually been much different. All of the kids have come from great families, intact or otherwise, who love them, and do and would do whatever they can for them. But we all know life isn't always fair, and things don't go as planned. The My Room projects aren't meant to come in and save the day. They are a show of appreciation for the youths and families for their involvement with the Trail Guards organization; for their hard work at the park; for being the great kids they are.