Child Haven. Miracle League. Street Teens. Monkey Gym. Operation School Bell.
These are just a few of the places where the Las Vegas teens in Young Men’s Service League volunteer.
Young Men’s Service League began in 2001 in Plano, Texas. The national organization formed in 2005 and it now has 37 chapters and counting.
Debbie Esmurdoc and her son, Patrick, are two very involved members of the league.
The league creates a positive balance in her life by helping her give back to her community, Debbie Esmurdoc said.
“To witness the impact of people’s lives when we are volunteering is truly rewarding and fulfilling,” she said.
The league helps foster relationships between mothers and their sons, she added.
“As a parent, you are always teaching your children life lessons,” she said. “Being able to actually participate in philanthropy and witness the impact on others while watching the impact left on my son creates a special moment that I will always treasure.”
Patrick Esmurdoc, 15, a sophomore in the civil engineering program at West Career and Technical Academy, said he joined the league because he wanted to make a difference in the community.
He said he enjoys working with a great group of guys, but added that his favorite part is “being able to choose from so many charities and events to volunteer at.”
Members also volunteer at the Ironman Triathlon, Joy Prom, Foreclosed Upon Pets, St. Vincent’s Food Kitchen, The Animal Foundation, Toys 4 Smiles and many others. The young men and their moms fulfill a four-year commitment, serving more than 20 local philanthropies and volunteering hundreds of hours each year.
The Esmurdocs said their favorite charity is Miracle League, which gives disabled children and adults the opportunity to play baseball. Service league volunteers run team signups and act as “buddies” out in the field, running participants around the bases.
“If you could see the smiles on the players’ faces when they get a hit or catch a fly ball, you would understand why that’s my favorite charity,” Patrick Esmurdoc said.
While watching her son interact and form a bond with players, Debbie said “it’s all about the respect for others, regardless of any mental or physical differences. Dreams and goals can be achieved by anyone who wants to obtain them.”
The 2012-13 school year marked the inaugural year for the league’s Nevada chapter.
The group started out with ninth and 10th grade classes. They’re now sophomores and juniors, with a new freshman class as well. The chapter’s website said it “has been organized to initiate and encourage young men in the pursuit of philanthropic involvement in their community and to provide an opportunity to enhance mother/son relationships.”
The league also has speakers, activities and topics on issues relevant to them and their mothers. For example, one meeting taught the boys how to jump-start a car and another related to college applications. Moms serve as mentors to their sons and serve alongside them, presenting themselves as role models.
Plus, league members have to follow a list of responsibilities. They must adhere to a code of conduct while at meetings, social and philanthropy functions, and attend at least five meetings that cover social, practical and educational topics. They also have to complete at least 20 philanthropy service hours with their mom, and hold an officer’s position within their class.
The Las Vegas chapter also participated in a nationwide philanthropic event called the “Ultimate Gift Project.” All 37 chapters chose a project to help a charity or family in need. The teens in Las Vegas decided to create a “resource room” in three local high schools — Western l, Desert Pines and Mohave high schools.
Debbie Esmurdoc said the three schools have large numbers of homeless teens who attend school in hopes of an education and graduation.
“These rooms will provide a safe, comfortable place to gather after school. They will have an inviting space with tables, chairs and a sitting area that kids can utilize for tutoring, homework or just socializing,” she said.
League members cleaned carpets, painted walls, created artwork for walls, and put together industrial shelving to organize donated food, school, supplies, hygiene products, and clothing. They also moved in donated furniture to create a “homey feel,” which Patrick Esmurdoc said is “something so many of these kids may not get enough of.”
Patrick Esmurdoc urges interested students to join the league, “because you get to meet new people and feel better about yourself inside. By volunteering, you definitely have the chance to impact change in peoples’ lives.”
Debbie Esmurdoc is also involved in National Charity League, a group for mothers and daughters. She said both leagues are “amazing organizations to get involved in. Both organizations teach social skills, making choices, health and nutrition, and life and practical skills.”