Volunteer Day Sitters making difference in young lives

By Greg Miller

STAR STAFF
gmiller@starhq.com

   Whether its their involvement with the recreational activities afforded by Volunteer Day Sitters or director Tina Heaton's encouragement to reach for the stars, youngsters who are enrolled in the program say it is a positive influence in their lives.
   Heaton's daughter, Amaris K. Fox, 7, enjoys the activities such as swimming, skating, bowling, singing karaoke, and trips to a carnival, McDonald's, the Pumpkin Patch and Taco John's. Heaton's son, 6-year-old D.J. Fox, enjoys the ball-related games.
   Bowling and swimming are among the favorite activities for Johnathon Cole, 7.
   "My mother was very young when I was born, so I'm being raised by my grandmother whom I call mother," said 14-year-old Natasha Nave, Heaton's sister, who volunteers with the program. "I'm still close to my real mother, although she's like a sister to me. I realize that I have been given the lives of my mother and grandmother, as well as my own.
   "I know my father but he has chose to not be a part of my life. However, God saw fit that I have a father figure in my life, and my siblings' father, though not my real father, has stepped up to the plate.
   "I'm living proof that life is what we make of it. A lot of the children we volunteer with are from single parent homes. They can look at me and see that life doesn't end because you're from a single parent home. I love volunteer work, especially if I know I can make a difference."
   "Being in Volunteer Day Sitters has helped me keep myself out of trouble, and I don't spend summer bored," said 10-year-old Jeffery Miller. "There's always something to do. Whether it be bowling, playing basketball, swimming, or making crafts, there is always something."
   When the youngsters go bowling, 10-year-old Anthony Cole gives Mrs. Penny at Holiday Lanes a perfect score. "Mrs. Penny is always at Holiday Lanes with a smile on her face," Anthony said. "She tells me to do my best at bowling. And I do."
   Heaton agrees that the program is making a difference in the children's lives. "It's made a big difference in the lives of the children," she said. "All the kids have improved their grades in school. The teachers are always talking about the kids coming to school bragging about what they've done the day before or during the summer with our program. During the school year we also operate as an after-school program.
   "All of the children have really improved. A lot of the parents brag on the children about how much they've improved their attitudes toward everything in life."