Illinois students help challenged children for spring break - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

Illinois students help challenged Texas children during spring break

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On a patch of southeast Texas, at a place where little kids find healing aboard four legged friends, you will find "spring breaking" young folks who chose brooms and brushes over the option of beaches and beer.

"It has been amazing. They have the gift of love they want to bring to us," said Fritzi Glover Strowmatt, founder of Special Cheers, a riding and therapy center for disabled children.

To offer their labor, no fewer than 44 students left their books behind at Illinois State and drove more than 1,000 miles

"We take a 'Pay It Forward' tour every spring break," said student leader Michy Maloof.

They call themselves "Students Today, Leaders Tomorrow".

On this day, they were a rapid deployment force of caring and commitment descending on Special Cheers.

"When we come in with a group of 44 people and just knock it out, we know that we are helping them in a big way," said Sierra Lucich, a student leader and volleyball player at Illinois State.

As for motivation, it doesn't hurt to see those you're actually helping riding happily by.

"It touches my heart that we are able to serve here," said student Tim Leonard whose on his third Pay It Forward tour.

"They are working for the children," said Glover Strowmatt.

In return, these students say they expect nothing but the knowledge that they've given instead of taken and left a place better than they found it.

"To be able to see all these incredible people with different backgrounds come together and do so much work and change peoples' lives and change the world, essentially, is amazing and I love it," said Nicole Tokarski, a student leader on her second tour.

It's a long, long way from the beer kegs and hedonistic, beach clatter.

"It's exciting that we can be a part of something so special and helps kids develop into who they need to be, who they will be," said Maloof.

"You get to that personal level of what's important, which in the end, is all we have to give back," said Lucich.

It is a week of learning lessons that just may linger a lifetime.

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