From left to right: Anna Lortscher, Aliyah DeCook, Taylor O'Donnell and Takinzie Tierney hang out during snack time at last week's Byron Campus Life meeting. Photo by David Richards
By David Richards
As Gary Kadansky talked about his two and a half decades of work with area youth, sixth-grader Will Holz sunk a half-court basketball shot worthy of ESPN.
"It felt pretty good," Holz said of the basket. "I've made them before, but not very many. It takes practice. I've probably missed a kazillion."
Holz was one of 23 youth who came out for Byron Campus Life Feb. 4, a weekly ministry held at the Byron Middle School gymnasium and associated with Rochester Area Youth For Christ.
The group is for grades fifth through eighth.
"Kids just want someone to listen to," said Kadansky, executive director of RAYC. "I enjoy being an encouragement. I enjoy sharing God's truth and helping kids get along with each other."
Kadansky, who lives in Stewartville, leads Byron Campus Life with fellow youth leader Barb Rutgers.
Rutgers is new to Byron, but her five kids have been in Byron schools for the past five years. She moved to town from Rochester last June.
"It's awesome," Rutgers said about Byron Campus Life. "This is always something you hope for, that the kids have a safe place to come."
The group meets on most Monday nights during the school year from 7 to 8:30 p.m., and there's no cost. The meetings usually start with a little free time, time for instance when Holz could practice his half-court shot.
"I like it because you learn a lot about God and you can practice basketball," Holz said.
It then transitions to a game or two, then a discussion on a topic that affect local youth. Most of that time is spent in small groups.
At this meeting, the games started with ping pong tic tac toe, with two middle schoolers trying to make three ping pong balls in a row in cups filled with water.
The next game squared off two more students, this time in a race to get the contests of tube of Carmex lip balm onto a small paper plate.
The prize? A $20 bill.
"But this is a two-part game," Kadansky said. "Now, I want you to get all of the contents back into the tube."
While that led to a lot of groans, Kadansky had their attention.
Here's what I want you to think about," he said. "We are quick when it comes to drama in our lives and making up problems and causing problems because of gossip. But like with these Carmes tubes, once the gossip is out there, you can't get it back in."
"Oh, I get it," one middle schooler said.
That discussion led to small group discussions, which led to snack time, in this case some animal crackers a Capri Sun.
"The heart of it is to take issues the kids in the middle school are faced with and to talk about questions that relate to these topics," Rutgers said. "Gary talks about what the word of God says about these issues, and we try to equip these kids with some positive answers."
For more on Byron Campus Life or Rochester Area Youth for Christ, call (507) 288-4567, visit rochesterareayfc.org or e-mail email@example.com.