Help To Others (H2O): Drops Of Kindness Create Ripples Of Change

This is the first story in a three-part series featuring special people who have a unique relationship with Help to Others, H2O, a Lakewood institution that is celebrating its 20th year of teaching and inspiring middle- and high-school students to volunteer and do what they can to make the world a better place.

Thousands of people have been touched by H2O’s service learning program during the past two decades. Here is just one of those stories.

Meet Jamie Zychowski. At 23, she spent more than a third of her life participating in H2O, first as a camper, then as a junior counselor during high school, and as a counselor in college.

From her first days as camper in the summer program when she imagined one day running H2O as an adult to her first time participating in Relay for Life as a counselor, Zychowski says being a part of H2O charted the trajectory of her life and shaped her into who she is today.

A graduate of Hiram College with a degree in communications with a concentration in journalism and public relations, she moved back to Lakewood after graduating to take her dream job with American Cancer Society. Zychowski now works with volunteers on fundraising events and manages three Relay for Life events throughout Northeast Ohio.

“Nothing could be more powerful or more comforting as being on the Relay for Life track with all these candles lit remembering people who you have lost with hundreds of people who are going through the same thing and supporting you,” she says, adding that her grandmother was three-time breast cancer survivor before she passed away two years ago from her fourth recurrence. Her dad also is a cancer survivor. “I saw the impact Relay makes on people and how it helps people heal. I knew I could help people through that and that’s what I wanted to do.”

When her mom signed her up for summer camp when she was in fifth grade, she didn’t know anything about volunteering or what she could do, as a 10- or 11-year-old kid, to help people.

“After the first day I didn’t want to leave, I would have stayed overnight there,” she says. “Every day when I was in camp, I got to see firsthand everything that I was doing and the impact that I could make. H20 really instilled in me that I can make a difference. Even if you just go to a food bank for one day, you are still making an impact. People are going to eat because you gave up four hours of your life to pack food.”

Join the celebration as H20 kicks off its 20 years of service to the Northeast Ohio community with a night of fun, festivities, and philanthropy at the H2O Tributary Bash, Saturday, February 23, 2013, 7 to 11 pm, at the Lake Erie Screw Factory, 13000 Athens Avenue in Lakewood. A special VIP event will take place 5:30 to 7 pm in a smaller, more intimate setting of the Screw Factory.

Tickets for the main event are $50. A very limited number of $100 VIP tickets are available. Sponsorship opportunities, starting at the $100 level, are also available. For more information, to purchase tickets, or to sponsor the event, visit www.thelakewoodfoundation.org/H2O/ or call 216.529.6870.

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Volume 9, Issue 2, Posted 9:23 PM, 01.22.2013