Never Forget

Guest post by Melvin Guzman, Program Manager for East Central Project Bridge.

Group Shot

Volunteers at Camp Freedom on the first day of the event

Eckerd Kids Project Bridge provides second chances to youth previously in trouble with the law. One way we accomplish this is by giving youth the opportunity to engage in community service. There is no better example of this than last month when Project Bridge partnered with other organizations to hold an event titled Never Forget, held in  memory of September 11th.

project bridge youth

Julio and Josh volunteering

Eckerd Kids Project Bridge, Home Builder’s Institute, The Mission Continues, Soldiers Freedom Outdoors and Guardian Angels partnered to create a weekend of service in support of organizations that serve veterans and active military. The event lasted from September 10th to September 11th in commiseration of the 15th anniversary of the tragic events that took place on September 11, 2001.

The event was held at Camp Freedom which provides outdoor therapy to veterans. Nine youth from Eckerd Kids Project Bridge, as well as staff and volunteers participated in building a corral for the camp’s horses. Meanwhile, others built a dock over the lake in order to improve access for veterans and family members with mobility constraints. Youth that attended were also recognized in the 2nd Quarterly Super Star Event to highlight their service.

After the ceremony, there were a variety of outdoor activities for our kids to participate in including swimming, fishing, boating, card games, horse-back riding, an outdoor movie and s’mores by the campfire. Many of the Project Bridge youth in attendance had expressed interest in the military, and this event provided them an excellent opportunity for personal conversations with our military men and women. Later that evening, a water lantern ceremony was held to commemorate those lives lost and affected by the events of September 11th.

project bridge youth

Julio builds a new structure for Guardian Angels and their service animals.

The following day, September 11, 2016, the youth completed their second service project, this time at Guardian Angels. Guardian Angels trains medical service dogs, 90% of whom go to veterans to assist with PTSD symptoms. The youth built a chicken coop, shade structures and doghouses to assist in the training of the service dogs. Our youth had the chance to use practical constructions skills that they have learned from Home Builder’s Institute.  They also learned the value of teamwork as they worked alongside with other volunteers.

Many of the youth in Project Bridge live in communities marked by drugs and crime.  This event was a chance for them to expand their horizons and see the opportunities in their lives.  This weekend taught our youth that their future is in their own hands.


  1. Melvin Guzman says:

    Awesome event…glad to have been a part to experience this camping trip with the youth. We look forward to many more exciting projects for our youth at Eckerd Kids Project Bridge.

  2. Melissa Geiwitz says:

    The Never Forget camping trip was exactly that, we will Never Forget it. The Home Builders Institute (HBI) and Eckerd Kids Project Bridge students struggle with issues at home and in school that some of us cannot fathom, but while camping and working on service projects together, the young men and women realized that they were not alone; they were in it together with the other students and the staff and volunteers who care for them.

    Our youth made positive decisions and strengthened interpersonal relationships as a result. Thank you to volunteers from The Mission Continues, Soldiers Freedom Outdoors, and Guardian Angels. Your compassion helped our students interact more effectively with one another and the world around them.

    Thank you,
    Melissa Geiwitz
    Community Relations Manager

  3. Melissa Geiwitz says:

    Work-related skills in building, service projects, and mentoring, all rolled into one. I agree that it was an awesome event.

  4. Aira says:

    I don’t even know what to say, this made things so much easeir!

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