Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

A Lasting Lesson From A Moment In Time

As summer vacations begin to wind down, many of us are refocusing on local businesses, seeking to learn new techniques to attract customers and create new revenue. Learning comes in many forms – seminars, forums, and continuing education. Sometimes though, the most lasting lessons come from the briefest encounters.

Aktion

Aktion Club of Lake Norman

For more than a decade, I have served as the advisor to a group of special needs adults called the Kiwanis Aktion Club. These young adults meet each month at the Lake Norman Chamber to socialize, conduct community projects, and participate in programs to enrich their lives.

Recently, a friend asked if I had a personal connection to this group. Perhaps a family member with special needs or a friend with a disability? As I started to reply, I had to suppress the tears. Yes, there was a story. There’s always a story.

In 1983, I joined a local community service group called the Jaycees and jumped head first into nearly every local project. Then one day, the Chapter President asked for volunteers to participate in Camp Hope Sunday. The statewide charity was a summer camp for children with disabilities. Each year the Jaycees would dedicate one Sunday to drive to this special camp and spend an afternoon with the young campers. The volunteers would take a picnic lunch, usually stopping at KFC just outside of the camp, and spend time with the campers.  After lunch, the kids would sing a few songs for their hosts.

The first few times I was asked to join in, I always found an excuse why I couldn’t attend, but in 1986 I was president of our Jaycee Chapter and felt that I had to go. Once there, I was assigned a little boy. Thirty one years later I still remember his name … Jason. Jason was just like any other ten year old child except he was considered special.  Jason had Down Syndrome.

Shortly after we arrived, we sat down for our picnic. The room was loud with laughter and chatter and Jason hardly took a breath between bites as he filled me in everything that came to his mind. When he reached over and started picking up food off of my plate, I was slightly taken aback.  But Jason just laughed as if he had told the biggest joke of all.

Several minutes later Jason joined a group of kids to sing a few songs. Picture twelve children, all singing the same song, but each and every one in a different harmony and pitch. I caught Jason looking directly at me, eyes locked on mine, and he was smiling from ear to ear. After the last song, he ran back to our table, anxiously asking could I hear him?  “Absolutely,” I replied. I’m quite sure he was the loudest child on stage!  As our group gathered to depart, I’ll never forget that moment when this young boy who I met just hours before, wrapped his little arms tightly around my waist, and said “I love you Mr. Bill.”Aktion 2

We drove three hours back to Rock Hill and although others in the car were carrying on conversations, my thoughts were still on Jason and the other campers. That’s the day, the very moment, I realized Jason didn’t have a special need – I did. But not anymore. I truly believe God gave me that moment with Jason for a reason.

When my friend asked me recently did I have a special needs child of my own? I said yes. I have a couple of dozen of them actually. We meet every month at the Chamber. We call ourselves the Aktion Club.

Some Aktion Club members are in their 20’s, some in their 30’s and they may not be kids – but in a very special way, they’re my kids. When they have every reason in the world to rail against their own particular challenges – they laugh, love, learn, and serve.

Jason touched me in way that I have never forgotten. This ten year old child with Downs taught me I didn’t need to be afraid. He had enough love for us both as he wrapped his arms tightly around me as my body literally shook.  Three decades later I remember that simple hug. It was the afternoon I found God’s Grace in the heart of a child.

Bill Russell

The above article was written for The Lake Norman Citizen Newspaper – July 26, 2017.

 

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August 16, 2017 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis, Lake Norman Aktion Club, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lake Norman Aktion Club Receives Top Honor

Front Row (Left to right): Whitney Gaar, Donna Frye, Gwen Butler, Brad Wiles, and Adam Dunaway. Second Row: Kristin Hunter, Shekinah Mackey, Chris McCall, Club President Justin Teague, Stephanie St. Peter, Club Advisor Bill Russell. Third Row:  Joey Gift, Aktion Advisor Peter Rieke, Robby Payne, Aktion Advisor Jack Hatfield, Bill Clingenpeel - District Governor of Kiwanis of Carolinas and Top Row: Steve McIlwain – Mecklenburg County Arc.

Front Row (Left to right): Whitney Gaar, Donna Frye, Gwen Butler, Brad Wiles, and Adam Dunaway. Second Row: Kristin Hunter, Shekinah Mackey, Chris McCall, Club President Justin Teague, Stephanie St. Peter, Club Advisor Bill Russell. Third Row: Joey Gift, Aktion Advisor Peter Rieke, Robby Payne, Aktion Advisor Jack Hatfield, Bill Clingenpeel – District Governor of Kiwanis of Carolinas and Top Row: Steve McIlwain – Mecklenburg County Arc.

The Aktion Club of Lake Norman, sponsored by the Lake Norman Kiwanis, was named the Mecklenburg County Aktion Club of the Year by the Arc of Mecklenburg County, an agency which serves individuals with Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities. The award was presented by Peter Rieke, Aktion Club Administrator and Steve McIlwain, Aktion Club Coordinator at the Annual Mecklenburg Arc Awards Dinner held at Park Road Baptist Church in Charlotte.

Aktion Club President Justin Teague was also recognized with the Spotlight Award for his outstanding achievements and contribution to the club.  The Aktion Club of Lake Norman was recognized for their membership activity and service projects which included a coat drive this past winter and a contribution to the Ada Jenkins Center Food Pantry. The club meets on the fourth Friday of each month at 7:00 pm at the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce.  It is open to any young person over the age of eighteen (18) with special needs.

Bill Russell, president of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce and an active member of the Kiwanis Club, is the Aktion Club Advisor.  “We have a really outstanding group of young people involved in our group.  Their energy and positive outlook is a constant reminder that our only real limitations are those we place upon ourselves.”

If you have a family member over the age of eighteen with developmental disabilities and wish more information on the Aktion Club of Lake Norman, contact Bill Russell at the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce at 704-892-1922.

June 30, 2014 Posted by | Lake Norman Aktion Club | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment