By Michelle Caceres

Dozens of Tampa Bay foster kids from A Kid’s Place had the chance to eat sno-cones and play carnival-style games at an annual event hosted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ youth members.

Teens between the ages of 12 and 18 coordinated and executed the carnival, manning booths, making treats and escorting the younger children to each activity.

FishHawk resident and 14-year-old Tori Tilton was paired up with a 2-year-old boy.

“He was just so cute,” said Tilton, who has four younger brothers at home. “When it was over he didn’t want to leave because he was having so much fun.”

A Kid’s Place, located on five acres in Brandon, is a 60-bed facility that provides a home for abused, neglected or abandoned children.

“They rolled out the red carpet for us and had activities that were geared to every age group,” said A Kid’s Place Resource Specialist Mary Berg, who noted that something as simple as a carnival is an activity that most of the children at the home have generally never experienced.

“It provides a sense of normalcy to our children,” she said. “They can go to school on Monday and have something positive to share with their friends.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints young mens’ President David Doyle said not only was the activity an act of service but it was a way to get his youth to reflect on what they have and the good things in their life.
The carnival definitely had an impact on Tilton.

“It was moving to see kids that don’t have the same home life that I do and see how strong they have to be to not give up,” she said. “I don’t know how I’d react in that situation.”

At the conclusion of the festivities, children were provided backpacks filled with toys and school supplies courtesy of Little Red Wagon Foundation.

It was a positive experience for all involved.

“This is just one of the reasons why I love being a part of the youth program,” Doyle said. “Guiding teenagers to do great things is rewarding.”

For more information about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, visit www.lds.org.