Julius Bloomston grew up going to Alabama’s Lewis Smith Lake. It’s where he feels at home—it’s in his blood. So when the opportunity arose for him to put his passion to work for a good cause, he jumped at the opportunity. “I read in a publication about this organization that provides a day on the lake for kids,” Julius says. “And I said, ‘Hey, I want to get involved with that.’” The organization, Wake the World Alabama (WTWAL), is part of a national effort to offer a fun day on the water for abused, neglected, or disabled children from local children’s homes. Launched in North Carolina in 2008, Wake the World now hosts more than 50 events in 28 states, including Alabama.
A special shirt for a special day
While it takes a village to put on the annual event, which includes wakeboarding and other fun activities on the lake, Julius says it’s the participants that make Wake the World such a gratifying experience for everyone involved. “They’re such good kids, and they’re getting a second chance at life,” says Julius. “[Wake the World] is our chance to entertain them and give them a special day.”
When Julius decided to get involved with Wake the World Alabama back in 2014, he called Cary DeWitte, WTWAL’s program director. “She said, ‘Well, we have shirts for the drivers, but we don’t have any T-shirts for the kids,’” Julius says. As the owner of Right Turn Promotions in Birmingham, a promotional products company, Julius knew he could change that. Through the SanMar Customer Merchandise Donation Fund, he was able to acquire 150 blank tees free of charge and print them in time for the 2015 event. “Having SanMar there to provide a blank shirt for each kid might seem like a modest donation, but it means we’re closer to providing a screen printed T-shirt to keep as a memory for everyone involved that day,” says Julius. “That T-shirt is affecting someone’s life.”
“Yes, you can”
On the morning of each Wake the World event, Julius says he braces himself for an emotional experience. Many of the kids at the event come from abusive or neglectful homes and had never been in a supportive environment until they came to the children’s home. Their time on the lake is a transformative one, and Julius is honored to be a part of it. “One of our mottos for the day is ‘Yes, you can,’” he says. “I just want to do anything that helps boost their self-esteem, to help them believe in themselves.”
Since his first Wake the World day, Julius has watched the event grow into a life-changing experience, not only for the kids involved but also for the volunteers. “It’s pretty emotional,” he says. “You see thousands of smiles and high fives and kids telling each other what they did on the lake. I get pretty overwhelmed and teary just thinking about it. I’m just so happy for the kids.”