There’s a quote often attributed to Albert Einstein that defines insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”. Having just spent some time with ARI’s Brian Abdullah — one of our 2017 Community Champions — I’d like to offer my own definition: taking 24 middle-school kids camping for a weekend. That’s exactly what Brian did earlier this spring, and he just brought me the photos to prove it.
Here’s a little background on Brian’s personal mania: he was introduced to the after-school programs of Camden’s Urban Promise about three years ago during Holman’s Days of Caring, part of the annual United Way campaign. There was something about those kids that really connected with Brian, and before long he found himself there two afternoons every week; now I’m not a math guy, but that’s like 100 times/year. And because he loves to cook he started making dinner for the kids every Wednesday, for over two years now, and all on his own dime. But wait, there’s more: Brian created, and then furnished, a game room for the old church that serves as the program’s home, and the past two years he’s also coordinated a Valentine’s Day party and a Christmas party.
But in case you haven’t fully understood that Brian is not your average bear, he decided to take 24 of the kids camping this past March in South Jersey’s Belleplain State Forest, something he had enjoyed with his own family as a child. Many of these middle-schoolers had never been out of Camden, so in a small nod to sanity Brian was accompanied by 4 other adults. Brian bought footballs, Frisbees, flashlights, and fishing rods, as well as extra socks and comforters, for the outing. He told me he spent almost the entire weekend cooking and cleaning up for this tribe, while his charges could “simply be kids”: hiking, fishing, and playing.
Brian told me he was grateful for the financial support he received from AutoTruck EVP Jim Dondlinger, who met Brian on the Partner of the Year trip to Mexico this winter. Jim paid for the entire pantry-full of food Brian fed his charges with over the course of three days, which only shows that Jim’s got a little bit of the sickness, too.
When the weekend was done and the last child delivered home, Brian collapsed in bed at 6:30 Sunday evening. That may be the only part of the outing I can fully understand.