By Bailey Neal
ACU’s campus group Treadaway Kids is shifting its focus to parents during a cookout sponsored for kids and families involved in the program.
The purpose of the cookout, planned for Thursday, to give group leaders the chance to connect with the parents of the children they mentor weekly.
“Our focus is on the leaders getting to know the families,” said Samantha Manski, assistant director of the Volunteer and Service-Learning Center. “They get to do that each week with the kids, but the parents may be distant for a little while until they get a foundation of trust.”
Student volunteers and Residence Life staff members worked together to coordinate the free cookout. More than food, though, Manski said it is an opportunity to minister to parents – the first such event for the organization.
“I’ve been a part of Treadaway Kids as an adviser for several years now,” Manski said. “I know that a cookout or a picnic is something that has been talked about every year. It’s something that they all have wanted. We finally have leaders and advisers that are capable of making it happen.”
Manski estimated about 210 people could show up if every child in the program brings three family members.
The children involved in Treadaway Kids usually come from high-risk neighborhoods, on occasion, student leaders see the effects of parental neglect, according to the Volunteer and Service-Learning Center’s Web site.
“There is always potential for parents who are either overworked and exhausted or that just don’t really care,” Manski said. “More detached parents may very well be stressed, but if the kids have parents that aren’t interested in this, they’re probably not interested in anything the child does.”
Megan Thomas, president of Treadaway Kids, said she is determined to grow closer to the families and is particularly excited about the cookout.
“A big part of the mission of Treadaway Kids is to change, in a broader sense, the community of Abilene, and through that, we want to change the way these kids are looked at,” said Thomas, senior biology major from Round Rock.
She encourages the leaders of Treadaway Kids to express to parents the great things about their children.
“I think the cookout is a good example of people who just want to be loving and caring and be literally showing the love of God in action,” Manski said. “The first thing you have to do is build relationships.”