Forty students from Pope John Paul II High School in Royersford could have slept in on their day off from school on Monday, Jan. 15. Instead, they chose to participate in a day of service at St. Edmond’s Home for Children in Rosemont on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

The high school students had the opportunity to play interactive games with the children while learning more about individuals with disabilities. St. Edmond’s Home, a ministry of Catholic Social Services, serves medically fragile children with a diagnosis of severe or profound intellectual and physical disabilities.

“Our school motto is, ‘Be not afraid to seek the splendor of truth and live the gospel of life,’” said Doug Dunn, theology teacher and Community Service Corps advisor at Pope John Paul II. “Serving at St. Edmond’s Home is about living the gospel of life. This service day instills in the students that to be pro-life includes more than just the unborn. It also means caring for the most vulnerable.”

Pope John Paul II students Thalisa Tolentino, Olivia McNear, and Lindsay Quintero participate in a day of service at St. Edmond’s Home in Rosemont.

Denise Clofine, administrator of St. Edmond’s Home, explained that each student was paired with a child who received individual attention throughout the day.

“I’m a firm believer in having high school students, middle school, and even elementary students do a day of service with us,” Clofine said. “It teaches the students that there are other children who face some challenges and are differently abled.”

The service day began with a prayer and watching a video of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The students then read stories to the children and helped them play Wonder Ball (aka Hot Potato) and Freeze Dance.

“They were playing music and dancing with the children in their chairs, swirling them around, and it seemed like everybody was having a great time,” Clofine added.

Kevin Kramer, activities coordinator at St. Edmond’s Home, emphasized the importance of volunteers supporting the mission of the home.

“To be able to match those we support with a student to engage with on a one-to-one basis is invaluable,” Kramer said. “The Pope John Paul students were enthusiastic, and they learned lessons of compassion, charity, hope, and faith through their interactions with our children.”

Juliet DeSanto, a sophomore at Pope John Paul II High School, helps lead an activity at St. Edmond’s Home in Rosemont.

Dunn, who previously worked as an activity coordinator at St. Edmond’s Home, explained that the service day was on hiatus for a few years due to the pandemic.

“This was our first time back, and I had more students interested than we could accommodate,” he said. “I had to cap the number of students who could participate.”

The students also presented a $1,000 check from the school’s Community Service Corps to help the home provide recreational activities for the children.

Dunn explained that every Thanksgiving the students raise funds to provide families in need with Thanksgiving meals, and the remaining money is donated to St. Edmond’s Home.

In addition to honoring Dr. King’s legacy, Dunn noted that the service day offers valuable life lessons for the high school students.

“I think it’s important for students to recognize how blessed they are, whether it be physically or materially, and to recognize that not everyone else is,” he added. “I hope that our young men and women gain a greater appreciation for all they have.”