Jennifer Sapp smiled and slightly nodded her head as a group of kids belted out “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” the alphabet song and other children’s ditties.
Then Sapp, who is an EMT with Highlands County Emergency Medical Services, and four of her colleagues, got all the cookies and punch they could handle and thank you cards from a group of children who want the world to know they care.
Three months ago, 6-year-old Mackenzie Smith started the Kids that Kare Club to encourage children to help their community and make a difference while having fun, said her mother, Kimberly Smith.
Now, the club has 18 children from 12 years of age to as young as 18 months.
They meet twice a month and plan one monthly event that “improves their community,” said Kimberly Smith.
Last month, they baked brownies, sang songs and gave hugs to the residents of The Palms of Sebring.
Friday was an appreciation day for the county’s firefighters, policemen and emergency medical services responders.
Kelly Duppenthaler, training officer with the EMS, said he was glad he came as he flipped through the many cards that were going to be posted around the station.
“I like this; this is cool,” he said.
Zowy Demeere, 7, wanted to know if Duppenthaler got another cookie. Paramedic Dana Davidson handed him an extra one of his while Sapp joked about getting fat when she was asked about getting seconds.
All three said it was a nice gesture from the kids, who have big plans in store.
“It’s a nice break from the routine,” Davidson said.
Future Kids That Kare events include working with horse rescue facility Promise Acres, cleaning up litter and handing out books to children.
Mackenzie, who helped make posters and cards for the Friday event, said she does it to help out people and hang out with her friends. So does Mackenna Crawford, 7, and Billy Curtis, also 7 years old.
One of the things Billy is looking forward to doing is a program the group wants to eventually launch if they have funds in place.
They want to help terminally ill children and their families have “one last dream” together as part of an initiative they call, “One Last Dream.”
The plan is to first raise money through sponsorships or by selling books, jewelry and artwork. They then want to work with different area hospice groups and identify kids who have six or less months or live and plan something special for them and their families, Kimberly Smith said.
The whole endeavor is not only making the kids more community conscious, it’s also bringing out the leader in them and helping them be comfortable in public, their parents say.
Saturday, they sang with no hesitation or shyness.
Billy’s mother, Jennifer Curtis, said she was impressed when the kids were at the Palms and they recited poems and handed out brownies to an audience of about 25.
“They wanted to hug them, kiss them, talk to them,” Curtis remembered about the residents that day. “They had smiles all the time.”
Any companies interested in sponsoring “One Last Dream” should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
All donations are tax-deductible and 100 percent goes into the project, said Kimberly Smith. Kids that Kare is part of Works in Faith, a nonprofit organization.
Any child or parent is welcome to become part of the club. They meet the first Thursday of every month at 2:15 p.m. at Cracker Trail Elementary for Cracker Trail students, and 5:30 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church for everyone else.