Friend to Friend brings Holladay community together for night of service
Jan 07, 2019 05:08PM
● By Lindsey Baxter
Some of the members with the director of Friend to Friend. (Lindsey Baxter/City Journals)
By Lindsey Baxter | [email protected]
The Holladay community came together to serve at the end of November, hoping to demonstrate its charitable heart.
Monday Nov. 26, from 6–9 p.m., was a special night of service at Olympus High School. The organization Friend to Friend put together a major event. Over 13 different charities had 30 projects put together for them with donated items from community sponsors.
The event had dancers that performed for the volunteers, music, and food trucks to provide great food to snack on while putting together all of the service projects.
Taygin Dehart, a senior at Olympus High School, is the president of the Friend to Friend organization. “Friend to Friend is a nonprofit organization that runs out of Olympus High School but has students that participate from Skyline High School, and the middle schools that feed into Olympus and Skyline High School,” she said. “There is like 250 of us and we usually invite the community to come out and serve with us. We do an evening of service every year but this is the first year it’s been here.”
Jen Wunderli has been director of Friend to Friend for five years now. She said they have over 200 “amazing kids” from Olympus, Skyline, Olympus Jr. High, Evergreen Jr. High and Riverwalk Elementary in Lehi.
“We are starting to expand a little bit. Our mission is building friendships through service and that’s why we do it,” Wunderli explained. “This is our big annual event where we teach the kids about gathering and resourcing and getting all of these kids together.”
Kids, families and the community brought the 30 projects together with 13 charities to help that evening, she said.
“It’s crazy how fast everyone came together and just got these projects put together. These kids are just amazing; they get so much done so quickly it’s just unbelievable,” Wunderli says. By 7:15 p.m. that night, over 90 percent of the projects were already completed and ready to be moved on.
Some of the charities supported in the event had multiple projects made and donated for them. The charities that were supported included the Christmas Box House, the Sharing Place, Because He first Loved Us, Youth Making a Difference, Santa Sacks for the Granite Schools, Volunteers of America, the Road Home, Primary Children’s Hospital, Granite Education Foundation, Utah Food Bank, YWCA, Humane Society of Utah and Feeding Children Everywhere. With such a wide variety of charities, there was a place at the event for everyone to feel welcome in making a gift or putting together a hygiene kit.
The night was so planned out that as the projects were being completed, another service project was getting starting in the gym. The Youth from Because He First Loved Us mixed with players from Friend to Friend for a basketball game. Prior to the game starting, the Olympus High basketball coaches, Matt Barnes and Whitney Hunsaker, were teaching the players drills and some techniques for basketball.
“The players (on the high school team) can’t play because they are in season so the Friend to Friend kids come in and play with the refugees,” Dehart said. “The refugees are from Because He First Loved Us and they mix with the Friend to Friend players to play a game of basketball and the cheerleaders are here to cheer them on. Each group, the cheerleaders and the basketball coaches, encourage service throughout the school year.”
When asked what her favorite thing about being a member of Friend to Friend is, Dehart said, “Our motto is building friendships through service. One of my favorite things is seeing us come together and serve and recognize the relationships being built as we are showing we are becoming stronger friends and relationships. I love being a part of it and I really love that we recognize multiple charities and it gives us a chance to give back to so many different ones.”
Allis Safford, a student at Olympus High School and member of Friend to Friend, said, “It’s changing our lives to change other people’s lives. I love helping other people and it helps me too. Seeing the change in other people’s lives helps us. A big group of the community has come together tonight to show support.”
Wunderli said their program operates all through volunteers and lots of donors.
"We love that people want to come and help volunteer with us,” she said. “We do a variety of events throughout the year. We go to the Road Home, we are at the Homeless Youth Resource Center that we interact with, and we will be doing an inclusion campaign in the schools. With the suicide rates and all that stuff going up, we are really trying to pull kids into groups and have them serve together. The inclusion campaign is to help build friendships and have them feel connected somehow. The campaign will last all week with a big concert to end the week.”
One little volunteer, Lily, made it clear why she was there that night. “Because I like helping people.”
Her mom, Kristen Harmon, an Olympus High alumna, said this was her first time attending the event. “With all the focus around the holidays of serving, I’m not the best at organizing service, but I thought I would love to get my kids involved in helping others out. My kids have been finding their own way into what they have been interested in,” Harmon said.
Any student is welcome and encouraged to join by emailing Wunderli at [email protected] while a new and improved website is being put together.