Raising Kids Who Care | Reader's Digest

Raising Kids Who Care

It's easy--if you lead by example. Five families show you how to get started, stay committed, and make a real difference.

By Martha Fay from Reader's Digest | December 2008

START THEM YOUNG

Kathy and Andy Saulitis
John, 20; Peter, 19; Kathryn, 16
Darien, Connecticut

Twelve years ago, when her three children were small, Kathy Saulitis heard a high school student speaking at a PTA meeting about a community service project he’d organized. “I thought, I want my children to grow up to be just like him,” says Kathy. “I want them to learn how to give, develop compassion and empathy, and be around kids of diverse backgrounds.”

Kathy contacted Kids Care Clubs (kidscare.org), a clearinghouse that matches people in need with kids who want to volunteer, and started a chapter in her town. Her efforts jump-started her children’s interest in service-though each took a slightly different path.

Ten-year-old John didn’t immediately see why people needed help at all. “His initial reaction at one food drive was ‘They just need to go get a job,’” his mother recalls. In simple language, she explained about income versus expenses. With time, she says, “he understood.” John carried that lesson throughout adolescence as he tutored underprivileged kids, something he still does as a college student.

John’s brother, Peter, took to volunteer work more easily. He helped out at a nursing home and in the Little League Challenger Division program (littleleague.org), which pairs young athletes with children who have mental and physical challenges but long to play baseball.

Kathryn “wasn’t that comfortable going into soup kitchens,” her mother says, but is participating in book drives and activities for residents at a local nursing home. She has also started a global awareness club at her high school.

“It’s important for parents to be models,” Kathy says. “If someone can’t reach a shelf in the store, help out. Or give someone a meal. You need to give that charitable muscle a workout whenever you can.”