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Mission team aims to make children smile

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013 12:06 p.m. CDT

More than 100 local youths and adults traveled to Florida to give terminally ill children and their families the best vacation they could get. 

In late July, Joe Munro, director for Sycamore United Methodist Church’s youth ministries, took about 100 youths and 20 adults from several local churches on a four-day trip to volunteer their time and efforts at the Give Kids the World resort in Kissimmee. 

The nonprofit organization that runs the resort is committed to “fufilling the wishes of all children with life-threatening illnesses,” according to its website. Munro said the resort is run by volunteers and holds a variety of amusements such as miniature golf, pool tables and arcade games. 

The effort to put a smile on the faces of children who were ill was not a dour one for Munro and the rest of the volunteers. 

“It’s just the opposite,” he said. “... they’re blessed to be there.”  

David Emmert, an 18-year-old Sycamore High School graduate, said the trip was definitely rewarding. He had fun working there and getting to know the families visiting the resort. 

“It didn’t feel like work at all,” he said. 

He noticed that while the children were terminally ill in some cases, they seemed like normal children who were happy and energetic. 

Emmert, who is a lifelong member of Sycamore United Methodist Church, said the volunteers were broken up into work groups to do service projects around the resort. They cleaned and operated different venues, which was called “angel” work. 

Emmert said he’s taken mission trips before with Munro’s Life Missions team but nothing like his trip to Florida. Previous trips involved helping out service work organizations or helping with summer camps. 

Even though the Life Missions team trips are reserved for high school students, Munro will allow graduates to participate. Every trip for Emmert has been an emotionally and spiritually rewarding experience. 

He said this year was his fifth as part of the team and he intended to take on another mission this year. 

“I really wanted to do it because it’d be such a different experience,” Emmert said. 

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