CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Perfect Pitch! It wasn't hard to convince me Ms. Pat is a Mo's Hero. I was one line into the email from Ginny Grisdale and thrilled to share Ms. Pat's legacy. "Ms. Pat is a seasoned educator (above 80 years old, but I won't say how many) and is a dedicated volunteer and role model for all of us," Ginny wrote.
It's clear, from everyone I talked to, Ms. Pat has a long list of kids and adults who would say her lessons last a lifetime. Ms. Pat spent years at the CMS elementary school Montclaire. It sits right across the street from her church, St. Andrew's United Methodist, where Pat worships and still works tirelessly with the children's choir.
But there is one week during August where the lessons take on new significance. Ms. Pat volunteers at the St. Andrew's Art and Music Camp, which is free to students in grades 2nd through 8th. "I know that it is changing their lives because she gets them to be confident in themselves! They will stand there in the beginning and only sing in a whisper, by the time they are performing for parents on Sunday, they really sing out loud," Ginny told me by phone.
The music director of St. Andrew's and head of the camp, Gayle Smith, described Ms. Pat's gifts as heaven sent. "She is the most dedicated human being I have ever met. Whatever you want to call it, from God, whatever suits you, it's innate in her, this is her calling, and she was born with this!"
Most of the kids who attend the camp go to nearby schools. This week of art and music is a chance for them to be cared for and learn during their summer break. "That's one of the reasons we started this camp," Smith said. Many, she told me would never be able to afford a camp like this. "We started this camp to give them a taste of all the arts, hoping that it does all the things science says it does. Which is help students in other subjects like math and science," Gayle told me.
If there is a heartbeat of the camp or organization, it sounds to me like Ms. Pat is just that…a woman revered by so many who, "Is a wonderful example of living with a humble and loving attitude," according to Ginny Grisdale. "She's just a gentle and kind woman and the children really adore her! She would say she doesn't deserve this, but I know she does!"
Gayle told me about an encounter recently with a child who'd been to camp. She saw him somewhere else, out of context, but he said, "Hey I know you. You're from camp!" She asked him what song they learned that year, "He remembered. Then I asked him what song we learned the year before, and he remembered that too," Gayle said of the boy. Clearly the experiences of this music and art camp are something these kids take well beyond the doors of St. Andrew's United Methodist Church.
I know how my choir teacher helped me 'find my voice'. It's not just about singing, it's about building confidence in kids to stand up for themselves, to feel safe as themselves, and loved and appreciated. These students might not give a presentation in a boardroom any time soon, but these confidence building moments at St. Andrew's Art and Music Camp are all part of the mission that will prepare them for just about anything.
Ms. Pat, thanks for giving kids that wonderful sense of themselves, the knowledge that someone cares enough about them to go the extra mile for all these years. I know next week's camp will change more lives. You're making this world a better place, one beautiful child at a time!
I didn't speak to Mr. Pat for this blog. Gayle Smith told me she wouldn't feel deserving. "She's too humble." But I plan on calling Ms. Pat when this story is published and personally thanking her for all the love she's shown children all these years.
Camp info: http://www.standrewsumc.com/