The day started before well before the sun rose. Many sleepy children arriving with their caregivers, Grandmothers & Aunts, each face reflected the early morning or perhaps it was the excitement that had made it difficult to fall asleep at bedtime. Eden is cheerfully decorated with signs of welcome, encouragement and light, quick check in and a light breakfast placed in bags decorated by the Spirituality Education children at Holy Family School, talking with others riders and the sending team volunteers, the bus arrived and the first stop riders greeted all riders with sleepy smile.
Boarding the bus, settling in for the long ride, snuggling in with the pillows and snuggle blankets, the bus rolls away, our journey begins. The dark of night, the passing lights of cars and trucks, the wheels turn.
Soon on the Freeway, the soft hum of the tires lulls most back to sleep, the bus is quiet except for the soft, rhythmic drone of the engine. As the sun begins to raise, the sky changing from dark blue to light blue, the sky filled with soft puffy clouds, a peaceful shade of gray, with streaks of pink, the clouds filter the sunshine that now begins to streams through the large windows, the dawn a promising gift from God of a spectacular day, our riders begin to stir, a quick trip to the bathroom, a request for juice or water, our stalwart volunteers quickly answer the requests. The sun rises higher into the sky, the Grapevine looms before us, the Bus begins the climb, steadily rising up into the mountains, more awake and begin to talk, the excitement to see their loved ones, a little voice giggles as a volunteer plays peek-a-boo, the sound is infectious. Up and over the mountains, the valley lies before us, the day is mild and beautiful.
Our first stop, time for a coffee break and a stretch, the riders now awake, and the chatter is filled with excitement and anticipation. Back on the bus, time for more drinks, a snack or perhaps some fresh fruit. As the miles pass quickly there are tasks to be accomplish, cards to wish Mom a Happy Mother’s Day, the art work makes caregivers smile, older siblings gently help with spelling and lettering, pictures of flowers, so many hues, hearts in bright red, many with bright smiles in the centers, and sunshine in shades of orange, yellow and even purple, reflect on the children’s thoughts of this day.
The valley quickly speeds past the bus, the 5 freeway passing and onto the 99, the farms, orchards, and fields bring a sweet, earthy smell to our journey. More drinks, snacks and fresh fruits, the conversation turns to memories of Mom, the anticipation of the visit grow. Soon the Bus leaves the Freeway, the orchards of Almonds and Plums on either side, the sign CCWF appears, then there is a collective cheer, “We’re here” in a soft whisper. The Bus rolls up, the riders depart, the check in is smooth, so many volunteers see to the logistics of our visit, so many smiles and kind words, the riders quickly move to where the Mother’s wait, the smiles are infectious, the tears of happiness flow, the hugs are overwhelming, high pitched squeals greet both child and mothers alike.
The conversations flow like a rushing river, laughter fills the air; Children are swept up, held tightly. The four hours seem like a heartbeat, passing much too quickly, snacks, drinks and pizza served by so many dedicated volunteers, a picture taken for each child, face painting and games, the day is beautiful, a gentle breeze invites many families out onto the patio, the common room filled, the families have a few moments of peaceful and restful time together, not wanting to hear the announcement of the bus departures. Soon enough the bus letters are called, the tears of joy are replaced with tears of sorrow and longing to stay. Mothers kissing the tears away, promising to call, telling the children that the card will be a treasure, that they will see them soon.
Each bus letter is soon called; the Volunteers clean up so the Mothers can spend that extra time with their children. Soon the conversation is replaced with hugs and holding, waves and tears as the families leave the facility, most are quiet and reserved, some smile for the opportunity to visit and spend time. A quick check out, gracious and sincere “thank you” to all those made this visit a success and back on the Bus.
The ride home is quite, filled with conversation, napping and reflection, a stay connected bag with note cards, stamps, a picture frame for the family photo taken at the Prison and a camera to take pictures to send to Mom. Also a letter written by Mom to each Child and a Teddy Bear to snuggle with, also a book to read, a bag with bookmarks and friendship bracelets made by the Student Council from Holy Family School, all generous donations, makes the ride home a little better. The Bus arrived to the cheers and signs of the receiving team, helping our families off the bus, hugs and kind words, a Happy Mother’s Day wishes to riders and volunteers alike. The trip comes to a conclusion; our journey continues with the planning for our trip to Folsom Prison on July 25, 2014.
With humble appreciation, we would like to thanks the amazing volunteers who helped in every aspect of this journey. Without your dedication this trip would never be possible. For the amazing donation of time, treasure and talent, Holy Family Church generously donated items that were greatly appreciated by all our riders, from the travel bags given to each rider, both children and caregiver, the fruit, snacks, and drinks, this made the trip easier. The stay connected bags, teddy bears and books were greeted by a warm, grateful smile. All our riders truly saw the face of our Savior Jesus Christ in all those who made this amazing trip possible.
Candy & Jay Krueger, Get on the Bus 2014 Bus Coordinators
Holy Family Church South Pasadena
Uniting Children with their Mothers and Fathers in Prison