Posted by | Guest Blog

headshot By:  Andrew O’Steen, Student Body President J.L. Mann High School

Growing up, I remember driving by CDS on the way to church and seeing the kites hung on the ceiling through a window, thinking “Why can’t I go to a cool place like that?”  As I got older, I never questioned what CDS was or what it did. And even though I rode by it at least once a week, I had no idea it would create such an impact on my life in the coming years.

Last April, five members of J.L. Mann’s student council were tasked with the job of choosing a charity for our 2015 spirit week campaign, and as we combed through the dozens of applications and brochures, CDS shined brightly. We saw the impact that CDS has on so many Mann families, and realized that choosing CDS would be a great way to give back to not only the over 6,000 children who attend CDS every year, but also the ones that walk the halls with us every day. It was upon further research when I realized that CDS was the place that I had driven by so many times, but never explored. Obviously, we were proud to choose CDS as our charity, and through the countless tours, meetings, visits, and conversations, I realized what an impactful place CDS is.

The staff has always been so welcoming to us and treats everyone with the same respect and care. Whether it’s Mr. Willie at the front desk or Mrs. Dana giving a tour, It becomes quickly evident that everyone is passionate about serving such wonderful children. These children truly are the heart of CDS, and were the driving force behind the hard work that student council members put in to spirit week. I have had the opportunity to hear and witness amazing accounts of achievement, love, and perseverance from them, and they show that no matter the circumstance or obstacle, anything is possible.

After months of meetings, planning events, working out logistics, and creating excitement, our spirit week was able to raise over $151,000, an amount that is only raised through a community that is passionate about the charity being served. CDS made it easy to garner such support from the community because of the inspiring miracles that happen here every day.

As I reflect upon spirit week, I think about how CDS was always close to me physically, but became so much closer to me emotionally when I learned about the work that it does and the lives that it changes. CDS is a gem to our community, and the people that it serves will be able to attest to this fact in a way that I never could. I’ve learned through this experience to always look into something that may be easy to overlook. Whether it is a building that you pass by every day or a person that may not be exactly like you, everything has a story; you just have to listen.