A recent windstorm hit (2015) Spokane Washington and it changed the lives of Jen Fiorino and her twin grandsons forever.
After the storm Jen and her grandson’s were returning some books to the library when they found several families camping inside the library to simply stay warm.
Homelessness effects us all differently and for Tyler seeing people so similar to himself suffering without a home made him jump into action. This new experience “On Division (Street), we’d see all these people sleeping on the side of the street or under a bridge,” said Tyler, a seventh-grader at PRIDE Prep Public Charter School in Spokane.
Tyler remembered that he had some extra hand warmers from his camping trips with the Boy Scouts earlier that year. He hit the streets and offered the Zippo hand warmer to anyone he could find. When Tyler finished handing out all of his hand warmers he went home, collected up his allowance and bought more including stocking caps and gloves.
It’s been 2 years since that November windstorm and Tyler is still going strong. He still remembers feel apprehensive approaching strangers on the street.
Tyler said, “I didn’t know what was going to happen, but then I knew that I didn’t need to be afraid because these people aren’t violent.” Tyler also mentioned that he has never had a negative reaction from a homeless person he has attempted to help.
So far to date the best reaction Tyler has received from helping others was when he stopped to assist two women living under the town bridge. He says he was on his way to school when, “We saw this lady, she was pushing a wheelchair with another old woman in it. We pulled over and asked if they would like some gloves and some hats, and they actually started crying because they were so happy,” Tyler said. “It made me feel so good.”
For his good deeds Tyler was encouraged by his Grandma to apply for the Prudential Spirit of Community Award, a $1000 award. About 3 months after applying Tyler got an envelope in the mail and would you believe he won!
“I get this letter in an envelope, and I open it and I read it. It mentions a thousand dollars – I’m super happy about that, it’s going to my college fund – but then I read about getting a medal and going to Washington, D.C., and I got super excited.”
Tyler and his grandmother were given an all-expenses-paid, four-day trip for the awards ceremony. Olympic gold medalist swimmer Michael Phelps was the guest speaker, honoring more than a hundred kids mostly from the United States, for their volunteer work.
Tyler’s grandmother described the event as a “very intense four days” but also a “fantastic” experience for her grandson and the other children present. She noticed her grandson realize that “everybody here is like me.”
She said he “met a whole bunch of kids that wanted to get out and do it” – “it” being making a difference in society and enacting change now.
At the event, Tyler befriended a girl from Ireland who produces sleeping bags with padded bottoms. He is trying to negotiate with her to incorporate these sleeping bags into his volunteering in Spokane.
Tyler’s twin brother, Dylan, also has a heart for service. Dylan recently led a partnership between the Guild School and PRIDE Prep. Additionally, their Boy Scout troop toured Shriners Hospital for Children in Spokane for the Disability Awareness Badge.
The tour inspired Tyler and his brother Dylan to help children. “We want to make a proposal to Shriners and see if we can volunteer there,” he said, “We want to keep expanding and helping more and more people.”
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