Pathfinder clients make new friends this summer

Jon Sizemore (left), 13, catches a basketball during some interaction time at the Parkview Boys & Girls Club of Huntington County Thursday, June 21. Also participating in the game are (from left) Alexia Ramirez, 12, Mitchell Parker, 16 and Ella Emery, 13. Members of the club hang out with Pathfinder teen clients each morning, doing fun things such as using the computer, watching videos and cooking.
Jon Sizemore (left), 13, catches a basketball during some interaction time at the Parkview Boys & Girls Club of Huntington County Thursday, June 21. Also participating in the game are (from left) Alexia Ramirez, 12, Mitchell Parker, 16 and Ella Emery, 13. Members of the club hang out with Pathfinder teen clients each morning, doing fun things such as using the computer, watching videos and cooking. Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published July 5, 2018.

Mornings in the summertime at the Parkview Boys & Girls Club of Huntington County are always busy and boisterous, with kids in every part of the club having fun on their break from school.

But for about 20 to 30 youths who are clients of Pathfinder Services, the fun is teamed up with making some important friendships.

Each morning, Path-finder members arrive at the club for breakfast, then head to the Teen Center to relax, play video games, watch movies, play pool or find an activity in the gym. Around mid-morning, Boys & Girls Club members join the Pathfinder kids to hang out.

“The partnership, which has been happening for a few years, gives our members the opportunity to interact with kids of all ability levels as well as providing positive interaction for members from Pathfinder Services with other kids around their age,” says Bethany Buzzard, marketing and event coordinator for the club.

It all started when some of the kids would come to the club from the Pathfinder State Street location and eat lunch, according to Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Mandy Reber.

“It’s just grown from there,” she adds. “Then they wanted to start hanging out, maybe once or twice a morning, and hang out with our kids.”

The combined group will often play basketball, hone their computer skills or participate in a cooking club, among the activities offered at the club, and just do things that “normal” teens do.

“I just think it’s a good collaboration, in general, between our kids and the Pathfinder kids,” Reber says. “What happens is you take our kids and it gives them something to do over the summer, but it gives the teenagers a feeling of being helpful. They help them make them feel like they belong, they help them if they need help doing anything, they help them wash hands and push them places. So that’s a great thing.

“And for the Pathfinder kids it just gives them a chance to be normal and have a normal summer, and hang out with kids that are teenagers. So that’s why it’s such a win-win on both sides of the aisle.”

After they have lunch together at the club, the Pathfinder kids leave for afternoon activities such as field trips.

“My favorite is swimming,” says Rebecca Paolillo, 16. “We swim on Thursdays. Today we go swimming.”

At the club, Paolillo gets a chance to hone her basketball skills with other teens, iron sharpening against iron.

“I’m in Special Olympics and I’ve been doing that for a couple of years,” she says.

Paolillo has also made some friendships she might not have otherwise made, naming Alyssa, Angel and Cammie among her special friends.

Alexia Ramirez, 12, who has been a member of the club for about six years, has also formed bonds among the Pathfinder kids, including Jon, Jillian and Mitchell. She enjoys playing basketball and watching movies with them in the Teen Center. And there is always time for letting loose with laughter and general teenage exuberance.

“We tell them jokes, and they respond to them, or we talk to them about things that they like here,” Ramirez says.

Ramirez adds the teens from Pathfinder teach the club members some important lessons as well.

“They’re really free-spirited and they don’t care what people think about them,” she says. “And they’re really funny and fun to interact with.”