In ‘The City That Never Sleeps’ it seems fitting that the teenagers on the Team Kids tour bus would pull into the Holiday Inn well past their bedtime. Their hair was matted and stuck to their faces. Their T-shirts were wrinkled and stretched. Each volunteer looked beyond exhaustion. As they filed in line carrying bags, pillows, camera equipment and clothing, they looked at the elevator as if it were the last climb up Mount Everest.
Hopefully they would get some rest. They had a big day in front of them; seminars and conferences at the United Nations building for International Youth Day and a tour of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
Friday, August 12 was the culmination of their nationwide community-service tour, which covered 14 cities in 14 days. On the 15th anniversary of Team Kids, the Team Kids Servathon: Tour Across America embarked on a journey from Irvine, California to New York, New York. The organization that began just before the September 11 attacks was commemorating its service with a final trip to the city that inspired its mobilization.
Envoy had the honor of flying these courageous and selfless young people back home. We were also lucky enough to join in with their tour through New York City.
These Kids Are Different
Outside the United Nations building, a group of Team Kids volunteers screamed with delight as a black dog and its owner walked by. The owner said, “Go ahead, he loves to be petted.” That’s all he had to say before all of the Team Kids were rubbing the dog’s belly and scratching behind his ears. Passers-by must have looked at the group of teenagers and thought, “What if they act like this inside the U.N.?” But once inside, these typical-fur loving teens instantly morphed into focused young adults ready to learn.
Many of the kids attended a sustainability seminar in the UN Economic and Social Council Chamber. Most of them found seats in the very front of the chamber to completely immerse themselves in the speakers’ presentations.
Upstairs on the 27th floor, the Team Kids chaperons gave a presentation covering sustainability that they blew away the corporate sponsors. The group had one day to prepare for the presentation, but gave no sign of it.
That kind of strength and togetherness is what Team Kids is all about. Throughout this year’s Servathon, they’ve revamped afflicted lots in New Orleans, tilled gardens in Austin and handed out care packages to homeless persons in Times Square; all in the name of sustainable development goals aimed to make the world a better place.
The kids of Team Kids are different. We’ve heard it all – kids today are selfish, disinterested, apathetic, etc. None of those labels could begin to qualify these kids.
“The only cure is more knowledge”
Eighteen-year-old Molly Hudash is the perfect example of the maturity and capability of the young people growing up through the program. Molly, the daughter of Team Kids CEO Julie Hudash, has been involved with the program since its inception. She’s been on many trips with Team Kids, but nothing like this arduous 14-day excursion across America.
Molly mentioned that her favorite city to visit was New Orleans, because of the history and the work they did beautifying a rundown city block. “It was 105 degrees, humid, hot, sweaty and a little bit miserable,” she says. “But those are my favorite days because everyone suffers together, which brings us closer together when people get out of their comfort zone.”
Molly also presented at the U.N. She was tasked with explaining how racial and gender inequalities play into an unsustainable planet. “It’s a sad truth, but racism is not over,” she said. “I know this because I see what my friends have to experience. I have friends from all sorts of backgrounds: black, Hispanic, LGBTQ…I really value diversity. Unfortunately, there is still a problem with inequality, and the only cure is more knowledge.”
Each day on their tour, the volunteers gathered together for a debriefing where they shared their experience with the rest of the group. During the debriefing on the charter flight, Ryan Hudash – another one of Julie Hudash’s children – took the time to thank Envoy.
“I want to thank the flight attendants and pilots taking us home,” he said. “They’ve gone the extra mile for us. I thought about this when we went to the Flight 93 Memorial; it’s amazing what they do up here. There’s no police, no first responders, but they keep us safe. It is no light duty doing what they do.”
Envoy could not be more proud of Team Kids, or more honored to fly them back home. We wholeheartedly commend their courageous efforts to make this country a better place to live now and in the future.
“Team Kids has done an amazing job and we applaud them,” said Envoy Director of Systems Operations Control Robert Nault. “When I see a group of young people doing such great things together, I am reminded of a quote I learned a long time ago. ‘Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.’ You should be proud of yourself. It is an honor and pleasure to fly you home.”