12 Ways Your Kids Can Make a Difference this Summer in Northeast Ohio

Camps, sports and other enriching activities fill children’s summers, but how can they use the school break to give back to the community?

Northeast Ohio has plenty of options for all ages to look beyond personal fulfillment and help others in need.

“It teaches them at an early age to treat people how you want to be treated,” says Karlie Haines, associate of community campaigns for the United Way of Greater Cleveland. “We have adult volunteers who look back at volunteering as a kid, and they see how it shaped the community and led them to where they are today.”

Special Needs

Exposing children to people from all backgrounds, including others their age with physical disabilities, helps strengthen understanding.

Youth Challenge is seeking volunteers to assist in summer sports, arts and science programs for children with physical disabilities. Various events are scheduled throughout Northeast Ohio from June to August. Volunteers work one-on-one with a YC participant to meet physical and personal needs.
Age: 12+
Location: Various

The Cleveland Triathlon for children and adults with disabilities is looking for volunteers for the event from 5 a.m. to noon July 23 at the North Coast Harbor. Jobs available include packet pick-up, water stations, finish line and body marking. United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Cleveland is coordinating volunteers.
Age: 15 and younger with a parent/guardian or individuals 16+
Location: Downtown Cleveland

Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center needs volunteers to help individuals with disabilities during horse-riding lessons. Volunteers will prepare horses for lessons and assist with leading the horse to ensure the student’s safety. No experience is needed.
Age: 14+
Location: 16497 Snyder Road, Chagrin Falls

Literacy lovers

With an access to books and reading assistance, children have the chance to grow and thrive in school and beyond.

Cuyahoga County Public Library is looking for tutors to help develop reading skills for children in grades first through third for its 1-2-3 Read program. Library branches participating include Garfield Heights, Maple Heights, Parma, North Olmsted, South Euclid – Lyndhurst, Southeast and Warrensville Heights.
Age: 14+
Location: Various

If you’re planning to attend the Cleveland Indians vs. Los Angeles Dodgers baseball game June 14 at Progressive Field, bring gently used and new children’s and young adult books for the United Way’s “Stuff the Bus with Books.” Cleveland Public Library will receive the books and distribute at outreach events and to children participating in summer reading programs.
Age: All
Location: 2401 Ontario St., Cleveland

Help sort and box books for children in need at the Cleveland Kids’ Book Bank. Two out of three low-income children own no books.
Age: 14+
Location: 3635 Perkins Ave., Suite 1E, Cleveland

Serving Seniors

Our children have so much to learn from our elders, who benefit from their help and companionship.

St. Augustine Health Ministries needs help with its Summertime Fun Family Festival from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. July 15. Volunteers can “adopt-a-resident” for the day and help him/her to play games, get their food and spend time with them. Nursing home residents will go to Camp Cheerful in Strongsville from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 14-17. Volunteers are needed to help with activities, which will include cooking, serving, leading games, walking residents around the grounds, clean up, assisting on and off the vans and more. A minimum of a 3-hour commitment is needed.
Age: 12-14 with a parent/guardian or individuals 15+
Location: Various

Eliza Bryant Village is seeking companions for multiple activities with senior adults, including having conversations over lunch, listening to music and participating in a Wii bowling team.
Age: 15+
Location: 7201 Wade Park Ave., Cleveland


Community Meals

Many people in Northeast Ohio go hungry, but our children often aren’t exposed to this reality. Serving meals opens their eyes to those living with few resources.

Trinity Lakewood Community Outreach needs food servers for four meals a month: first Monday (6 p.m.), first Saturday (noon), second Sunday (4 p.m.) and third Saturday (noon). Volunteers arrive 3 hours before the meal to help with food prep and setting up tables.
Age: All (parent/guardian as needed)
Location: 16400 Detroit Ave., Lakewood

Thea Bowman Center, which provides education and support to Cleveland’s Mt. Pleasant community, seeks food servers for meals from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. every Saturday. The center also needs assistance carrying food from its pantry to patron’s cars on Saturdays.
Age: All (Parent/guardian assistance as needed)
Location: 11901 Oakfield Ave., Cleveland

Little Helpers

Parents may be wondering how to involve young children (it’s never too early to start!). Caring Cubs provides opportunities for youngsters, including helping the environment, animals, the elderly and disabled. In June, Caring Cubs will create goodies and fleece blankets for animals living at shelters.
Age: 2+
Location: Various


HandsOn Northeast Ohio is a nonprofit that helps children, adults and families find ways to engage in the community. You can visit their website to see a variety of openings throughout Cleveland and surrounding communities.

Have other ideas about ways children can help the community this summer? Share in the comments section.

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