Aubrey Stewart Project makes a difference with 'Little Dudes,' 'Little Princesses'
By Ronda Wertman
KEYSER - Lighting up lives in the local community and across the world, the Aubrey Stewart Project (ASP) is changing lives one smile at time.
Most recently, ASP joined forces with Potomac State College Serves You and the Potomac Highlands Youth Soccer League to collect and send donated soccer items to children in Africa.
“These special people collected cleats, socks, knee and elbow pads, soccer balls and pumps for children in Nairobi, Kenya who don’t have the equipment,” said TJ Coleman, ASP president.
The recent collection was spearheaded by PSC Professor Ruth Upton and Stacy Huffman, along with liaison Dean Richardson, who serves with both PSC Serves You and The Aubrey Stewart Project.
“These wonderful people and organizations collected two boxes full of supplies for children in Africa. They also raised money to pay to ship the items,” said Coleman. “What a privilege to work with such fine individuals to help teach our children the true meaning of giving and the gift of appreciation; being grateful for all we have here in our lives.”
Along with the college and community, students in the Lil Dudes and Princesses were also a part of the collection efforts.
“We would also like to thank principal Lisa Goldstrom for coming out, helping and supporting our efforts to instill important values within her students in our program,” added Coleman.
Helping to sort and pack the items for mailing were Grandma Suellen Clay, Richardson, Goldstrom, Coleman and Lil Dude Zavon Evans.
Evans was one of the first in the Lil Dads & Dudes outreach of the Aubrey Stewart Project, which promotes unity for all and works for inclusion for all ages, especially the area’s youngest citizens.
“It was my way of spending time with him. I then realized if he needed this type of time, development and mentoring in his life, other little boys did too,” said Coleman.
In recent years over a dozen boys have participated with the Lil Dudes, as Coleman recruited retired Keyser Police chief Tom Golden and some of his officers to take the important step of being a part of these special lives.
“Once a month we would take our Lil Dudes on outings such as bowling, football games, fishing, parades, riding side by sides in the woods at Chief’s place, swimming parties and educational events such as a trip to Ashby’s Fort,” Coleman explained. “We discovered that the events were nice, but it was the time spent with the children that really paid dividends. Sure, we sought to have fun, but we used these events to teach and to instill good values into these children.”
“Some of our Lil Dudes have sisters. When we would pick them up, some of the sisters would say, “Mommy why can’t I go?” It was then that I extended our program for our Lil Princesses,” said Coleman.
“We have four girls in our program. We have tea parties, doll play dates, nail painting, spa days, frozen yogurt days, bowling, swimming parties, rides in the woods at Chief’s with the boys and anything else we can think of,” said Coleman, noting that Grandma Suellen Clay and Kathy Jenkins are on hand with him and the princesses.
“My heart compelled me to move in the lives of these children and others,” says Coleman of his passion.
He is looking for others who share his desire for making a difference in the lives of children not just for a season, but for all the seasons of their lives. Those who are bonding with these children now will be the ones that they will turn to as teens, young adults and throughout their lives and the volunteers need to make that lifelong commitment.
“People that are serious about making a difference in these young lives can call me at 304-790-4203 or contact me on my Facebook page under TJ Coleman,” he concluded.