Have faith in the next generation


Randy Riley - Contributing Columnist



Every generation seems to worry more about the next generation than they do about their own. There seems to be an assumption that whatever the current generation has built up, the next generation may tear down or simply neglect.

That said, it seems odd that several times in the past few years, I have heard it said that this current generation is the first one that may leave the world in worse shape than it was when we inherited it.

Growing up in the decade of the 1960s it was fairly common to hear members of my parent’s generation lamenting the future. In a way, I couldn’t blame them. We, the children of the ’60s, often tried to be difficult. Our parents would look around and see young people dancing and singing music they didn’t understand or couldn’t appreciate. We dressed differently than any previous generation. Our hair often went uncut. Our beards untrimmed. Admittedly, there were times we tried to be difficult.

Part of the mantra for children of the sixties was, “Never trust anyone over the age of thirty.” That generational concern and distrust certainly cut both ways.

Fortunately, I have been in a position over the past few years to work directly with quite a few young people. We have developed the Wilmington Succeeds program that helps make it possible for Wilmington High School graduates to attend Southern State Community College and then to transition to Wilmington College. We have encouraged and helped recent college graduates to settle in Wilmington and to buy homes in the city.

When my grandson, Clayton, was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, lost his right eye to cancer and went through six months of chemotherapy, one of the first groups that came forward to help the entire family was the Youth Collaborative from the local leadership program. While Jessi and Sean spent endless days and nights at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, these young people helped by doing chores around their home. Sean could come home from Cincinnati without having to worry about cleaning up the yard. Jessi would have less to worry about because these young people had spent their free time helping the parents of a child with cancer.

This past Friday night over 1,100 high school students from 24 Tri-State high schools gathered at the Cintas Center on the campus of Xavier University to celebrate victory over childhood cancer and to raise money that will go directly to CancerFree Kids to be used for research.

Early on Saturday morning, the announcement was finally made. These young people, our next generation, raised $146,025 to be used for research to find a cure for pediatric cancer.

Friday night, these students learned that more children die of cancer than from any other cause. They heard stories about cancer survivors. They met cancer survivors. They met our grandson, Clayton.

Debbie and I sat in the stands of the Cintas Center as Clayton was introduced as a cancer survivor. He was one of the youngest survivors introduced that night. To show that they were truly fighters, as they were introduced, the survivors entered a boxing ring. Everyone cheered.

Clayton as a little overwhelmed. He held onto his daddy as they entered the boxing ring, but many times he would look into the stands and wave at us. We sat in the stands and cheered our grandson for surviving his fight with cancer. We wept; not just with love and pride for Clayton, but at the wonder and beauty of 1,100 dedicated young people giving from their hearts.

These high school students didn’t have to do this. It was Friday night. High school kids always have something to do on Friday night. But, these young people spent their Friday donating the money they raised for pediatric cancer research. They deserve to be acknowledged and cheered for their hard work and for their commitment to continue the fight against childhood cancer.

There is an old Chinese proverb that states, “If you want happiness for a lifetime – help the next generation.” How beautiful and reassuring it is that our next generation is already helping us.

I have seen the future. Our future is secure. Our future is made up of loving and caring young people who truly care for others.

Our future is secure.

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Randy Riley

Contributing Columnist

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