The following is written from the perspective of a high school student who witnessed first hand the power of Lonoke Open Arms
Over the past six or so years of my life, I’ve had the pleasure of participating in numerous service projects for Lonoke Open Arms. LOA is a home for abused and neglected kids to come to when they have nowhere else to go. These kids are not bad kids; they’re normal kids whom bad things have happened to. It’s not their fault they were born into hard situations. I’ve learned that we can’t judge these kids just because of their past, but instead we need to help them have a brighter future. It really hit me how real these kids’ are one day in eighth grade around Christmas time. I was sitting in class when I noticed the new girl walk in and sit quietly in the back. The next weekend, my family and I went to the shelter to help decorate for Christmas like we do every year. When we walked in, I saw the same girl that joined my history class. She was a normal, nice girl who lived at Open Arms and was a victim. It’s real and all around us, in cities and towns all over Arkansas. These kids face adversity every day for the rest of their lives. They have to live with past memories and some have to deal with moving around to different foster homes.
My family started a pumpkin business several years ago that sells wholesale pumpkins to businesses around central Arkansas. Shortly after we started growing pumpkins, we realized that God had given us a way to help Lonoke Open Arms and ultimately the kids, and it was right there in front of our faces in oranges, whites, greens, yellows, you name it. Together with the Open Arms Advisory Board, we organized the Great 5K Pumpkin Run Event held every year at the Lonoke Depot. Families and runners come from all around to participate. Lots of high school kids and volunteers get there early in the morning on Saturday before the sun has even thought about coming up to start unloading pumpkins and setting up. The runners stretch, the band plays cool tunes, the smell of the grill wafts around making everyone drool, the race starts and kids scream with pleasure when they see all the pumpkins, and they can’t wait to run a mile with Snoopy and Woodstock. It’s a great time for the community to get together, but that’s not the reason for it. People from all over, all walks of life, come to raise money to help the kids of Lonoke Open Arms.
I understand that these kids can’t control all of the bad things that happen to them. That’s why they desperately need people to love them so they learn what is good in the world and the difference between right and wrong. They need us to give up our resources, our time and our prayers. I can only hope that the kids we have been able to help at Lonoke Open Arms have learned as many life lessons from all of us as we have learned from them.