This story is written by Red Cross worker Allen Crabtree.
“It is traumatic enough to be evacuated from your home and move your whole family into a Red Cross shelter,” said American Red Cross volunteer Kristie Drown. “But when everything in your world is turned upside down it is almost too much for anyone to have to then keep your children entertained!”
Kristie’s three daughters (Ashley 17, Alyssa 14, and Allison 12) were so moved by the plight of families that they created the “Kid Zone” at the Cheyenne Mountain High School Red Cross shelter. The three sisters are all Red Cross youth volunteers and are trained and certified Red Cross babysitters. Every day the shelter has been open they have organized play activity for the children staying there. The “Kid Zone” operates from 9:00 am until 4:00 pm, with a break so that the children can have lunch with their parents. The organized play allows free time for the parents to deal with all of the problems that evacuation, possible loss of their home, and planning for the future that the disaster has brought to them.
The number of children in the shelter changes every day as families come and go, and the “Kid Zone” organizes play activities that are appropriate to the number and ages of the children who take part. “We’ve had all ages in the Kid Zone,” said Ashley. “There are different kids every day but we get to know them, and it is a lot of fun.”
On a typical day, that play could involve board games, tag, playing catch, playing with dolls, or just coloring and poster painting. Toys, dolls, and play things were provided by community groups and businesses. On the days when the temperature was blisteringly hot, the “Fun Zone” included a water play area with a wading pool for the kids to cool down.
Kristie said that her four children showed an interest in the Red Cross at an early age (Her son Dakota, 15, has also been active helping at the military hospital and shelters.) “Allison used to play ‘Red Cross’ instead of playing house or teacher,” Kristie said. “She would sign people in when they came into the kitchen, ask people to volunteer, and pretended she was in a Red Cross shelter.” That early interest in the Red Cross and helping others has grown for all four of her children.
“All four of my children have been trained by the Red Cross,” said Kristie. “They are fully certified Red Cross babysitters, have had CPR and HIPPA certification, and are Red Cross youth volunteers.” They are active volunteers at the Evans Army Community Hospital at Fort Carson when they are not supervising play at the Red Cross shelter.
Red Cross Shelter Supervisor Betsy Morse had nothing but praise for the Drown children and the “Kid Zone.” “They saw a need when we were overwhelmed by everything going on and they stepped right in to meet that need. They have really done a wonderful thing for us here, and I know that there are a lot of mothers and fathers who really appreciate the “Kid Zone.”