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Sherry Young: Finding a way to serve others is one of life's great pleasures

Published: Monday, April 9 2012 8:18 p.m. MDT

There are so many causes in the world to get involved in, and so many people in need. Flyers come in the mail and solicitors call. We could spend every minute of our time and all our money helping others, so we must choose favorites.

Ours, of course is the Forever Young Foundation that our son Steve and his wife Barbara head. They are heavily involved supporting children's causes right here at home.

It has been a privilege to observe the relief Forever Young Zones provide for families as they spend time in various hospitals in Utah, Arizona and California. The newest project, Sophie's Room at Primary Children's Hospital, is named after our sweet, young friend Sophie Barton, who died all too soon.

We have seen joy on the faces of handicapped skiers working with the Adaptive Sports program at Snowbird as they come down the hill in the annual ski race. Likewise, we have witnessed the pain and the patience of children suffering from epidermolysis bullosa (EB) and are rewarded knowing the Foundation is helping find a cure.

They also partner with The Taylor Family Foundation, Anasazi, and The Opportunity Foundation, among others. Through the influence of board member, Robert Gay, they have built schools and are involved with other projects in Ghana.

But it isn't necessary to be a professional athlete to throw your hat in the ring. An interesting example of selfless service is a good friend, Sally Read, who has become involved in helping Rising Star Outreach, a mission to help leprosy colonies in India become self-sufficient communities.

She travels to India five times a year from her home in New Canaan, Connecticut, in addition to her personal responsibilities as a wife and mother. Sometimes her family goes with her. In fact they encourage groups to come as a family and learn how families everywhere can contribute to changing another person's life. They believe it is as life transforming for the volunteers as it is for those who are served.

Like other countries, leprosy-affected in India live in leper colonies and are shunned from the community as social outcasts. They are considered cursed, the lowest of the low. Their only contact with society comes as they beg for sustenance to stay alive.

The same stigma as their parents is hoisted on disease-free children who live in danger of contracting leprosy through long-term exposure and inadequate health care. The children are sometimes mutilated and forced to become beggars on the street.

With the medicines that can cure leprosy, many places like Hawaii closed colonies, but India has not yet done so. Although there is hope for the upcoming generation, many today still believe that the leprosy-affected are cursed. If they were to interfere, then God would curse them.

With the coming of Rising Star Outreach program, dormitories to house the children and a school for them to attend were built. Medical people now screen the children to keep them leprosy free. They also teach the leprosy-affected to treat each other's wounds, and they are given bandages and shoes. There is also now dental care.

At first, the founders focused on quality of life, but quickly came up with the idea of micro businesses. The leprosy-affected person invests their begging money in return for a loan to start a small business.

One example among many is Selvaraj, who noticed signs of leprosy as a young man. His family and village rejected him and he became a despairing beggar. With his loan, he purchased a goat, and as the goat gave milk, he sold it and paid off his loan. His one little goat multiplied into an entire herd. Today, he is a confident, successful member of society who now has hope for his future and that of his children.

A good life is a gift. It's our prerogative and privilege to pass some of our gifts to others. Contributing to a cause of your choice can begin with a mason jar to throw in loose change with a picture of a person or cause your family is helping. For those who can afford it, a journey of service could be more rewarding than a Disney Cruise.

Email: sasyoung2@aol.com

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