Community Connections brings books to life

Student organization launches a literary themed event for Sanctuary on 8th Street
Community Connections brings books to life

For many kids, reading opens up endless possibilities. Between a book’s pages lie worlds of wizards, superpowers, detectives, or dinosaurs where imagination can run wild. This year, the Community Connections student organization aims to bring some of this creativity to life for children from the Sanctuary on 8th Street. 

The group works with children from the Sanctuary on 8th Street, a local organization that provides youth and families in need with various opportunities. Community Connections helps provide those opportunities through frequent activities like the annual Halloween Carnival and Easter Egg Hunt.

The current Community Connections president, Kayleigh Kasinger ‘24, joined the student organization last year. “They’re low-income students and don’t have many resources. I just wanted to be a part of the people that can bring them to a safe place to have fun and not worry about their surroundings—to just be kids, without the stresses.”

As president, Kasinger works with the club to plan, set up events, and organize volunteers. This semester, she introduced a new theme to the student organization’s activities. “I was just thinking: What can we do to make our events more meaningful? And also to help kids, beyond just bringing them here, how can we help them when they go home?” 

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With a love for English and reading, introducing a literary theme seemed like the perfect answer. As the group began considering different books, a new outlet of ideas for events and activities opened. 

To kick off its literary theme, Community Connections held a Magic Treehouse event on January 31 with around twenty visiting kindergarten through second-grade students. “What books did we love as kindergarteners?” While brainstorming, members of the student organization drew from their own experiences and thought about the books they enjoyed in elementary. 

Magic Tree House,” said Kasinger. “It took a lot of planning, thinking about which would be the easiest to do. But we looked at the books and the first one: dinosaurs. Everyone loves dinosaurs.” 

After choosing the book, Community Connections came up with ideas for the event. “We took them to the Whitehurst treehouse and we had dinosaur painting and hatching eggs,” said Kasinger. “And at the end, we gave them all a Dinosaurs Before Dark book.”

“My favorite memory was when our vice president came out in a dinosaur costume,” recalled Kasinger, “the kids flooded out of the gate. They just go to hug her—and it was so cute, it made me so happy. Just knowing that we have such dedicated volunteers who are willing to put on a blow-up dinosaur suit and waddle around for two hours. It was really fun.”

The Community Connection volunteers’ dedication paid off with lots of excitement and gratitude from the Sanctuary students. “They loved it, they were bouncing off the walls,” said Kasinger. The student organization plans to continue its literary theme through future events: “Harry Potter, that’s always a fan favorite,” said Kasinger, “We have Nancy Drew, a scavenger hunt across campus.” 

No matter which book the club chooses to tackle next, it’s the kids’ story that’s the most important. “We’re getting kids excited about reading and building a connection with our community—Community Connections, right?” said Kasinger. “Just building that outreach so these kids have somewhere or someone to embrace their creativity. It makes you feel like you’re a part of something bigger, because you are a part of something bigger: helping these kids.”

About the Contributor
Ava Cheng
Ava Cheng, Design Editor
Junior Ava Cheng is a third-year Bugle staffer and Design Editor. She is proud of her 256-day (and counting) Duolingo streak and loves hanging out with her bunnies and friends.  Ava is looking to improve her interviewing skills and expand her subject matter. When shes not working with bugle or spending times with her bunnies, she is volunteering at JaxTHRIVE.