Posted by Dwayne Hopkins

True Story "The Little Round Rotary Wheel".

If someone looked at me today they would never know me as a young boy and the difficulties. They would never know the difficult times and tears. They would never know a time of grief and sorrow. As a young boy (about 7 years old), I remember getting visits from several people in the Children’s home that I lived in.
My family faced a devasting event when I was very young. My mother was killed in an automobile accident forcing my brothers (Robert and Charles), sister (MaryAnn) and I (four children total) into a state operated Children’s home in Columbia S.C. 
I have heard people say, we remember things as young children that played a dramatic impact in our lives while many other events are forgotten from our early years. We remember those things that stood out in our lives. I sure remember my mother’s death, but I also remember the children’s home, and the people who visited the children on weekends during special Holidays like Christmas. 
The children’s home was difficult to live in. The children’s home was just like one would see from the movies. Very strict rules, with punishment given by the belt, chores, and soap in our mouths if we talked back or said a bad word. I guess compared to today’s standards that is the old days stuff. Everything I experienced in the home was a process. It seemed like everyone was going through the motions with very little love. Looking back now, it is easy to see what love is or is not, but at the time it was all my siblings and I knew. I remember the cries at night from many children. Some missing family, parents or other difficulties. I remember crying during the night as one of the adults from the home yelled…lights out. My brothers and sister lived in different part of the children’s home. The coldness of the children’s home could be felt on the warmest South Carolina night. So cold, yet it was all we had in our difficult world. I was lucky if I was able to even see my brothers and sister during the day. Sometimes, it would be months before we crossed paths. Occasionally, a special day would come when families would come out and visit the children in the Children’s Home. While visiting a children’s home may seem like a small thing to do, it sure made a difference in my life as a young child. Children would look forward to that day and hope to get selected or see a familiar family.
I looked forward to people visiting because my siblings and I did not have any other family in South Carolina. No one to visit us or provide comfort. The nearest family lived in Florida, which was a million miles in the eyes of a young boy in 1968. 
Families would come by and pick up children from the home on weekends and holidays, if the child was lucky to be selected. Some holidays would pass with no visitors while other holidays I was lucky to be selected. I remember being picked up by one family who would also take me to the racetrack. As I remember correctly, it was the start of NASCAR in America. Well, at least in my eyes. Wow, those cars were big. I sure loved seeing those wheels turn around. Maybe that was the beginning of my love for cars. During Christmas, families would drop off toys for children in the home. I remember getting toys from Toys-For-Tots. Those were the only toys we received during the entire years. A little joy on my friends face when receiving a small toy made all the difference in a children’s home. In fact, I was lucky to be named King for Toys for Tots for Columbia S.C. in 1968. That was a big deal for a seven-year-old kid. However, most of all, I remember the wheel.
At a young age, I did not understand the wheel. I did not understand what the wheel emblem meant or what it stood for. All I remember is seeing the wheel emblem, which I would later understand, as Rotary International. How could something such as an emblem (a Rotary Wheel) change someone’s life? The first time I remember seeing the wheel was when a family would come sign me out from the children’s home. The same family that took me to the racetracks. It was a chance for me get away from the children’s home. That short get-away was my chance to be a kid. A chance to feel love of a family that was not always there. A time to not worry about anything and escape from the Children’s home. I wish I could remember the families’ names but I do remember that wheel. It was a simple wheel with Rotary spelled out. The rotary families would ensure I had a place to go during Christmas by inviting me into their home filled with love and happiness. During my entire stay in the home, people would come and sign me out on those special weekends. As I look back now (all grown up), I see how people come together to help others in the community as a Rotary club. The difference Rotary makes when reading a book to a first-grade student or providing a toy to a needy family during the holidays is a rewarding experience. It is easy to see the giving is not about the Rotarian. It is about Service-Above-Self while making a difference in someone’s life. When my father returned from Vietnam, the rotary family stayed in contact with my father for a few years. I remember when I was about 10 years old I got all kinds of scouting equipment. Later, as a grown adult, I discovered the Rotary family provided the equipment that my family could not afford. It amazes me how much a single person in Rotary can make a difference in someone’s life. Even after 48 years, I still remember that Rotary wheel as attend my weekly Rotary meetings. I still remember the wheel, the love and the kindness from the rotary family. Doing things for others is the most rewarding gift anyone can provide. While the remembrance of the rotary wheel is just a symbol to some. That symbol will always have a very special place in my heart as a sign of goodness in a very difficult time in my life. It is something that shows what one person, a family, group of people or a 1.4 million people strong can do for humanity. I will be forever grateful for those Rotary families and Rotary International.
Rotary International is 1.4 million members strong. Rotary involves members from all around the world in about 200 different countries. Rotary clubs promote leadership, professional development and Service-above-self. Rotary first started in Chicago on Dearborn Street on February 23, 1905 and has grown to an International Organization. One of Rotary International acclaimed accomplishment is trying to eradicate polio worldwide. From a single person to small groups, large groups and an international organization, people can make a difference in our world in Rotary. It is amazing what people with a small little wheel as an emblem can do for little children in a town like Columbia S.C. or in towns all around the world. I will always remember the wheel. To a young child, the wheel is a gift, kindness, love and caring. Now, as a Rotarian, I look into a child’s eyes in a school or disadvantage family member, I see a little part of me as my eyes tear up. I flash back to difficult times and see the light shining on a Little Round Rotary Wheel. Forever, a Rotary member
I wish each and every one of you the most blessed holiday season. May yours lives and families be filled with kindness and love.
5840 District Governor