For many of us, the inspiration and energy to help people in need is something that comes later in life. Often it isn’t until we have seen a bit of the world, and witnessed first hand the suffering and trials of others, that we are moved to act.
Which is why there is something wonderful, magnetic, about those who seem to have been born with an instinct for selflessness, and who are aware of the power of giving from a very young age.
At next month’s SAMMI Awards of Distinction, the people of Sammamish will come together to celebrate those unsung heroes of the community who, in a variety of different ways, make life better for others. When the nominees for the SAMMIs were announced recently, a number of great stories were revealed – stories about the amazing things that people on the Plateau do to help others.
One of the most remarkable is that of four friends, Alec Baer, Arend Broekmate, Billy Dimlow and Brooks Meadowcroft.
The 13-year-olds have been buddies since kindergarten at Sunny Hills Elementary. Now at Eastside Catholic High School, they have grown up playing sports together, hanging out, doing what young boys do.
But some of the great experiences of their young lives so far has been at a summer camp in the San Juan Islands – Four Winds Westward Ho.
For the past four years, the four friends have attended the camp together. They sleep in a tent, go sailing and canoeing, ride horses, play music, sit around a fire – all the great things that summer camps are for.
But Four Winds Westward Ho is a little different. With boys and girls coming from all over the world, one of the focuses of the camp is to foster friendships among people of diverse cultural backgrounds, and provide an environment for young people to learn about living in harmony, about nature, and about community.
Another of the great things about the camp is that it offers financial scholarships for those who might not be able to afford it otherwise – at about $4,000 per person, it is an experience out of reach of many families. Unfortunately, there are always more applications for scholarships than the camp can fund.
“Because we had been going for a few years, we started to notice that some kids weren’t coming back the next year, because the scholarships had run out,” said Arend Broekmate. “We really wanted them to be able to enjoy the camp experience like we were able to.”
So Arend and his three friends decided that there was something they could do directly.
“We came up with the idea of our own scholarship fund. The idea was to raise $8,000 – enough to pay for two kids to go to camp,” Arend said.
Rather than immediately holding the hat out to see what they could raise in donations, the four boys looked at themselves to see what they personally could contribute. Aware of the relatively blessed upbringing they enjoy, they knew there were things they could do without.
So they sold stuff on Craigslist. They sold their ski gear at a ski and sport swap. They saved their allowance, collected spare change, anything they could do to get close to their goal of $8,000.
“There were lots of things around the house that you don’t really need,” said Billy Dimlow.
Some friends on the Plateau, hearing about the young boys efforts, held a bake sale and donated the proceeds to the scholarship fund.
“We love going to camp so much – it has become such a big part of our lives,” Billy said. “We have met some of our best friends at the camp, people we have known for the last three years.”
At Four Winds, boys and girls can receive financial assistance to attend for a maximum of three years.
“We know that we are privileged enough that we can afford to go to the camp every year,” Billy said. “But it is not like that for everyone. Everyone who goes loves camp so much. It must be very hard to experience that for three years and then have it taken away.”
As their fundraising effort began to grow, Arend, Alec, Billy and Brooks knew they would have to do more, and so set about reaching out to the wide Four Winds community.
“We got together and wrote a letter that explained what we were trying to do, and sent it out to 400 people,” Arend said. “We signed each one, so that took up quite a lot of time.”
These four remarkable young men are getting closer to their goal – at last count they had raised about $6,000.
Regardless of how much they are able to raise, the four boys already realize what has been gained.
“Togetherness,” said Arend. “When I think about how much money we were able to raise in a short period of time, it makes me think of the togetherness of everyone at the camp. That people are willing to pitch in so others can enjoy the same experience.”
The four friends are maintaining a Facebook page, Four Winds Westward Ho Secret Scholarship Fund, where people can monitor the progress of the fund. To get in touch with the four boys, or to donate to their scholarship fund, e-mail Joni Broekmate at email@example.com.