By: Dara Yah’Ya
As we prepare for summer camp, we can’t help but remember a special friend. Last summer, the Youth Haven program was saddened by the unexpected passing of Renee M. Gonzalez. Ms. Gonzalez, known as “Ms. Renee,” was an enthusiastic ambassador for Youth Haven, speaking at the LSS/NCA Expressions of Abundance breakfast in April of 2013.
Behind the scenes, she was a constant presence at the office and at all of our events. Ms. Renee was a humble spirit who put the Lord first, and everyone’s needs before her own. She would never come empty-handed or alone, bringing multiple family members to every event we hosted. Ms. Renee took it upon herself to volunteer weekly and actively recruited new families to our program. She led the way for Youth Haven to incorporate parental involvement, enhancing our program development.
In her memory, we established a volunteer award to recognize persons who particularly embody Ms. Renee’s value of service to our agency. Her joyful presence is deeply missed by her family members and her Youth Haven “family,” but her loving spirit lives on as others follow her path of service.
This year at camp, we will remember her and welcome her Youth Haven family back to Mar Lu Ridge. Along with summer fun and adventure, Youth Haven Summer Camp provides a supportive space for comfort, learning and sharing. The passing of a mother, father, or sibling is not unusual for these young children and at Youth Haven we address these events and emotions together, not having to hide behind the stigma of HIV.
If you or someone who know is affected or infected by HIV/AIDS and is living in the Washington DC metro Area, please share with them the opportunities Youth Haven can provide for them and their loved ones.