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A Message from R.O.C.K.’s Founder

The following speech was written by R.O.C.K.’s Founder, Michelle Groe, and read during R.O.C.K.’s 20 Year Anniversary Celebration on Oct 19, 2014.

Dear Fellow R.O.C.K.ers,

As I sit 2,000 miles away in my Ann Arbor home, holding R.O.C.K. and its 20 years of history in my mind and heart, I can’t help but think about Mister Rogers, one of my personal heroes and inspirations. While some of you are too young to remember his little faux televised neighborhood, for us older folks, his voice of gentleness and calming presence was like a warm blanket on a cold wintry night. He spent his life sharing reminders of hope such as these:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Or, “We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”

More to the point, he once proclaimed, “Anyone who does anything to help a child in his or her life is a hero to me.”

As you take a minute now, look around the room and find yourself surrounded by heroes. Each one of you, many whom I’ve never had the privilege of meeting personally, have both changed the life of a child and been changed by the life of a child. Perhaps you are one of the original R.O.C.K.ers like Meryllia, or one of the founding volunteers like Bill. Maybe you started volunteering for R.O.C.K. this year or learned about Skill Drills a decade ago. In whatever capacity you have come and been a “helper,” you can now officially add “hero” to your list of accomplishments. You are a hero.

It is with great sadness that I cannot join you today because of an unexpected medical emergency in my own family that called me back home to Michigan on Friday night. That said, there is something powerful about considering you gathered today in my absence. R.O.C.K. was truly never about me. It was always, from the very beginning, about inviting individuals and communities to gather together on behalf of children and families so that we would all, each one of us, be transformed by the other.

I’ll never forget those early days—me at a ripe old age of 25—learning and growing and stumbling and being filled by wonder. Every single day was a new adventure. I’ve never in my life been surrounded with such an incredibly supportive community including every one of the founding volunteers, board members, funders and R.O.C.K. children and families. It was a season filled with great blessing and abundance, along with days of bewilderment and unpredictability. I never took for granted that R.O.C.K. would exist for a year, let alone twenty. Again, it was because of all the helpers. It is because of each of you here today, and the hundreds of people across the country who are not here, that R.O.C.K. thrived.

Thank you for being one of the hundreds, maybe thousands, of individuals who have so graciously offered both your strengths and limitations to R.O.C.K. so that together we could make a difference. Together, we have been changed and offered real options NOT only for city kids, but for their families, their schools, and for the community of Visitacion Valley. R.O.C.K. families, you have also changed lives by allowing us the privilege of sharing life with you. In and through your trust and your willingness to let us come along, we have been witness to your unbreakable spirit of strength, courage and hope. You have changed our lives and we are forever grateful.

To borrow once again from Mister Rogers, might I share this final quote: “The connections we make in the course of a life—maybe that’s what heaven is.” Thank you. Thank you for giving me such an extravagant glimpse of heaven. I am forever grateful and changed.

Michelle Groe
Founder, Real Options for City Kids