A Sea of Blue at Tennyson Center

Melissa Shipley

My introduction to The Mission Continues occurred exactly one year ago. I was given the opportunity to fly to Seattle to attend The Mission Continues’ Bravo Orientation 2016. I walked into a hotel ballroom, surrounded by a sea of blue shirts, worn by the brave men and women who traded their military service for service in their community. We went to a high school in Seattle, where we spent the day revitalizing a school that needed help. We had five hours to complete various projects, from painting to landscaping and everything in-between. We worked hard, but most importantly, we gave value to the students who attended the school. We worked alongside some of the students that appreciated that we wanted to give them something better. I came back home, signed up for the Denver First platoon and became as involved as I could.

When I came to Tennyson Center for Children in January 2017, I knew there were ways that we could work with The Mission Continues on a local level. Through my involvement, I knew that the Denver platoon’s focus included assisting students in Denver to build leadership skills, encourage civic engagement and community involvement. I called my friend Ben Eichel, and we started brainstorming how we could ‘report for duty’ at Tennyson Center for Children. What began as a simple discussion transformed… into that same sea of blue arriving in force on our campus on April 8th.

Bravo was a blur…an amazing blur. I spent my week helping The Mission Continues prep for the amazing day of service they awarded us with. During the week, curious kiddos walked by, asking what we were doing, who all these new guys were and how they could help. One of our residential kiddos even helped The Mission Continues staff in laying out lumber for a mobile chalkboard. I did my best to prepare myself for the emotions I would feel on that Saturday, but nothing can prepare you for the emotion you feel when the buses arrive. The energy was positive and powerful. People were excited and ready to work. They asked questions of our programs and services, wanting to know about our kiddos and the positive impact they would be making.

The day of the service project resulted in 226 volunteers, 1130 hours of combined service over 20 service projects. We built benches, painted walls, landscaped and everything in-between. Above all else, we created a positive environment for our kiddos. The Mission Continues fellows and platoon leaders are all post 9/11 veterans with a passion to continue their mission of service. They came from all over the country— Washington D.C to Hawaii, all with the same purpose… to bring a powerful sea of blue to Tennyson Center for Children.

I walk around campus and see the kiddos commenting on the projects that were completed. The handprint mosaic (pictured) is my personal favorite, because the kiddos have left their mark on their school. I still pause when I walk down the stairs, smile and think of that sea of blue shirts that reported for duty.

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