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Region Stories

These stories illustrate how early childhood programs and services funded by First Things First make a difference for young children and families in communities across Arizona.

Donal Drayne is the Pima North Region Champion

Donal Drayne, Pima North 2023 Champion for Young Children

Donal Drayne has been selected as the 2023 First Things First Pima North Region Champion for Young Children. The award is given to local champions who are going above and beyond in their efforts for young children from birth to age 5.

Drayne has been volunteering at the Salvation Army for over 30 years. After retiring from a successful career in the hospitality industry, he now spends his time supporting organizations throughout the Tucson community. He particularly enjoys working with children at the Salvation Army’s after-school program in the FTF Pima North Region.

We recently spoke with Drayne.  

QUESTION: What motivates you to support young children?
ANSWER: There’s so much need in the community and it starts with the youngest ones. Kids are impacted the hardest. Families in this neighborhood face a lot of challenges so they need a bit more help, and I want to offer that. Through volunteering, I am able to play a role.

QUESTION: Why should people take action to support children and families in their community?
ANSWER: You get satisfaction helping people, even in small ways. I come here and I’ll wash windows, I’ll sweep the sidewalks, hand out snacks, anything the kids need. Children need to feel important, they need a safe haven and adults who engage with them. I can give that and I enjoy our time together just as much as they do. When I’m on site the kids are the most important thing in the world to me, and I make sure to tell them that.

QUESTION:  Why are the years before kindergarten so important?
ANSWER: Young kids are sponges. Their brains are soaking in so much information early in life. Adults have to respect that they’re still learning, and respect their age and curiosity. It’s amazing how much kids want to learn, and adults can learn a lot from young kids, too. As you get older you can get jaded and set in your ways, but look at young kids: they’re eager, smiling, and so excited about life. That has to be nurtured. We adults owe that to them.

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