November 29, 2013

National Catholic Youth Conference 2013

‘Courage capes’ reveal the hearts of heroes and volunteers

Paige Hicks, left, of the Diocese of Owensboro, Ky., is pictured with stylist Alice Hannon getting a haircut on Nov. 21. Paige was one of 40 youths at the National Catholic Youth Conference who signed up to have 10 inches of her hair cut off for “Locks of Love,” a program that provides wigs for financially disadvantaged children who have lost their hair because of a medical condition. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

Paige Hicks, left, of the Diocese of Owensboro, Ky., is pictured with stylist Alice Hannon getting a haircut on Nov. 21. Paige was one of 40 youths at the National Catholic Youth Conference who signed up to have 10 inches of her hair cut off for “Locks of Love,” a program that provides wigs for financially disadvantaged children who have lost their hair because of a medical condition. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

By John Shaughnessy

The idea tugged at the heart of 17-year-old Abby Tuttle as soon as she learned about the “courage capes.”

Abby immediately joined the long line of Catholic teenagers who were waiting their turn to make one of the capes for a child who is a patient at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis.

“I think it’s great that the kids get these capes to show them that they’re superheroes,” said Abby, who traveled from the Archdiocese of Kansas City to attend the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) in Indianapolis on Nov. 21-23.

As she ironed a large star onto a multi-colored, striped cape, Abby noted, “It’s important for kids to have the strength to face diseases. It’s important that they know that other people care about them, and that other people are helping them overcome their struggles.”

For three days, that combination of service and compassion resonated throughout the conference’s theme park inside the Indiana Convention Center.

Each area of the theme park seemed to offer an opportunity for the conference’s 23,000 participants to make a difference, from donating “Jeans for Jesus” to cutting off 10 inches of hair for the “Locks of Love” program—a program that provides wigs for financially disadvantaged children who have lost their hair because of a medical condition.

Paige Hicks was one of the 40 youths who signed up to have her hair cut during the conference.

“My hair hasn’t been this short in four years,” said Paige, as she proudly showed the 10 inches of her hair that had been cut. “It was the longest it’s ever been in my life.”

Paige said she made the decision to cut her hair after talking about it with her mother.

“My mom said I should do it. At first, I thought it was too much,” said Paige, a member of the Diocese of Owensboro, Ky. “But then I thought, ‘Me having long hair is less important than a child being happy.’ ”

Living out the halos they wore, 16-year-olds Christian Urmanski and Jennie Britton were part of a large contingent from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles who swooped into action to help fill, seal and pack bags of rice.

Their efforts were part of a Catholic Relief Services and Helping Hands organization project determined to stop hunger in Burkina Faso, an African country hit hard by drought in recent years.

“An important part of being Catholic is helping others,” Christian said as he waited for another bag of rice to seal. “There are a lot of people around the world who need food.”

Christian and Jennie both learned that each bag of rice would create six meals for someone in need. They later learned that they were among the 1,000 volunteers during the conference who assembled more than 101,000 meals to help people in the African country.

For Jennie, being involved in the “Stop Hunger Now” program is an extension of the service work that has marked her life as a young Catholic—part of a generation that has embraced the concept of serving others.

“I love helping out in the community and for the Church in any way I can,” Jennie said. “This is a great way to help. I see it as an important part of my faith.” †
 

See more stories and photos from NCYC 2013 here

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