The Overnight: The event of the year. Everyone and their mom cannot wait for the day of the Overnight to arrive. It is exciting simply because you get to spend a full twenty-four hours with the YC Gang! I know because I have been on an overnight or two myself.
Arriving at Youth Challenge is always riveting. However, arriving at YC to load the vans to go to Highbrook Lodge in Chardon, Ohio took the excitement buzz to a new level. Participants screamed with delight during their car ride and, after a final goodbye from their parents, they met their partner and greeted others with big hugs that said, “I’m so excited to spend the next day with you!”
Once everyone was situated and the vans are packed, it was time to hit the road! Van rides were filled with the hits of the summer and lots of singing and dancing to go along. When we finally arrived and unloaded, the games and fun began!
This year’s weather for the Overnight was very Cleveland-like for late June—cool and rainy. The weather did not keep the YC gang from playing, swimming, or hosting an annual spoons tournament. Although we did not get to have a campfire, s’mores in the microwave were just as good, and the company was still the same. The “campfire” was my favorite part of the evening. It gave everyone time to relax while catching up and having fun before bed. During this time, I was able to talk to a lot of participants and volunteers and ask them about why the Overnight is so important to them.
For many participants, it is their only night of the year away from home. They get a break from parents and siblings, and they get to enjoy spending time with their YC family. For a couple of the participants, it was their first night ever away from home. Although they were nervous, they were extremely excited and comfortable to be with their YC friends. This first overnight experience was also a test—would they feel comfortable enough to do an overnight camp for a week? Other participants have been attending the overnight for years. For one participant, it was her last overnight before she went off to school in the fall. Although this was very bittersweet for her, she was so grateful for all the overnights she has had with her YC support system.
For volunteers, the Overnight also provides a great time away from home, but it provides so much more than that. For first time volunteers, the Overnight promotes awareness. It allows volunteers to see what it is really like to live alongside someone with a disability. Volunteers really begin to appreciate all the events, time, and dedication YC staff and families give to the participants. For veteran volunteers like me, the overnight allows us to find a leadership role. We have been on the overnight before, and new volunteers and participants can find comfort in a familiar face and a friend. Overall, it is in the volunteers’ best interest to work together to give each participant a great 24 hours away from home!
When we arrived back at YC on Tuesday at one, the overnight simply did not end. The laughs, conversations, and fun are remembered and cherished for years and years to come.