The first thing you’ll probably notice about Avant is his hair. It’s long and curly and free in a way that would make Diana Ross proud. It flies straight up skyward and straight down to the ground, catching grass clippings in its dancing tangle, as the nine-year-old does one cartwheel after another – seven in a row – until he runs out of lawn and his feet find concrete, ending his tumbling routine.
“I once did 23 in a row,” Avant says, reclaiming his posture from this gymnastic display.
He’s beaming. He always is on Thursdays when Susan comes to visit.
“Avant’s had kind of a hard life. They all have,” says Avant’s mother, Karen, her eyes filling with tears as she talks about the hardships her three young children have faced.
“And still, they are great kids. They still have a positive attitude,” she marvels.
There have been many upheavals in Avant’s young life. And yet, despite it all, Avant still brims with hope and potential.
He’s an active and creative kid. He’s teaching himself martial arts, he creates costumes and makes his own YouTube instructional videos showcasing his skills with a bo staff.
Avant loves to learn. He is bright and curious – he watches Bill Nye the Science Guy and wacky science experiments on YouTube. On home visits, he’s always eager to share his latest discoveries.
“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” he says, summoning Newton’s Third Law from memory.
“Avant craves attention,” says Karen, lamenting that with three kids, there isn’t always time to shower him with the kind of one-on-one time he so desires.
So when Susan comes on Thursday afternoons to visit Avant and the other kids on her route, Avant tags along – basking in, but never begging for, attention.
He’s happy to show you a cartwheel or seven, play two truths and a lie or tell you about something he learned at school. But he’ll also wait quietly as Susan chats with a parent or asks another child about their week at school.
He’s always ready to help Susan deliver flyers, holds doors and share relevant goings-on in the neighbourhood.
“He has drive,” says Karen, “this is why I need CityKidz in his life.”
Avant wakes up at 6 am on Saturday mornings for CityKidz and is always bright-eyed and smiling when the bus rolls into his neighbourhood.
“CityKidz has shown Avant about God and he loves it. He looooooves it!” says Karen, beaming with pride, “He comes home and he’s like ‘that was the best day ever!’ and you can just see the light of God and that excitement in him.”
When he gets on the big red bus, Avant sits down at the front, directly behind the bus driver so that he can help Susan lead the bus in songs and cheers on the way to the CityKidz theatre.
Susan gets the bus going and Avant helps keep it up. He knows every word and every action and you can see his joy and pride swell as more and more kids join in this wild choir. Avant shines as he leads the bus through ‘the wheels on the bus’ ‘we are the CityKidz’ and a number of other repeat-after-me and callback songs.
From the second Avant gets on the bus in the morning to the instant he gets home a couple hours later he is nowhere but in the moment. Throughout the entire CityKidz Saturday show Avant is fully engaged. He dances vibrantly, sings joyfully, cheers earnestly and prays peacefully.
“They’ve had such negative experiences,” says Karen, “and so to have a place to go out and relax and hang out with no parents, no negativity and it’s like family – It’s really good for him.”
And Avant is really good for CityKidz!
He brings so much enthusiasm to our buses and theatre. He is giving in both spirit and action. He’s someone we can depend on to serve wherever needed and whenever asked. He is a natural and generous leader.
He’s a kid we can count on to achieve his dreams and inspire those around him to do the same.