By Andrew Wroblewski
Sitting Monday in a cafeteria he hadn’t stepped foot in since he was a sixth-grader, 29-year-old Chris Strub was wide-eyed after giving a speech to campers of Project PLAY and St. John’s Camp in Huntington Station.
As he sat in the room, Strub pointed out familiar landmarks, such as a big, blue sign hung in the cafeteria that reads: “Convenient. Economical. Healthy.,” and noted not much has changed aesthetically in the 20 years since he’d been in the building.
But there was something different.
The camp, for low-income kids, hosted the Huntington Station native at his former elementary school, Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School, as a part of Strub’s mission to volunteer with a youth organization in every state across the country in just 100 days.
As Strub stood before the nearly 250 campers, he felt like things were a bit backwards.
“That was me 20 years ago,” he said.
The students, he said, probably didn’t fully understand the purpose of his visit, but, putting himself in their shoes, said they were probably thinking, “Hey, he’s asking questions, having fun, telling a cool story, taking a picture and dancing.”
These are just some of the activities Strub has enjoyed across the country during a mostly self-funded volunteering mission that has set him back about $8,000 since embarking May 15. Monday was day No. 90 and Strub was 43 states into his journey.
The Greenville, South Carolina, resident who earned a bachelor of arts degree from Binghamton University in 2007, said he planned the trip to fuel his passions of traveling and volunteering to benefit the lives of children.
“There are tens of thousands of youth organizations around the country, so to take a spotlight, through social media, and shine it on one organization per state, I thought would be a really special idea,” said Strub, who can be followed online at teamstrub.com. “You can make back money, you can’t make back time. This was definitely something I wanted to do in my 20s. So, in order to do that… it was May 15 or never.”
Strub turns 30 on Aug. 23.
A week prior to his Huntington Station stop, Strub called his parents to inform them he’d be in town and to ask them if they’d be able to join him. They were.
“I am extremely proud of him. Everybody I know is extremely proud of him,” Strub’s father, Charles, said. “You don’t just put yourself in debt for nothing. You do it because there’s something in your heart saying, ‘I need to do that.’ Now with this experience, he can go out and make some money and then do something else to help out on a bigger scale.”
Jane Strub , his mother, said she was proud, joyful and overcome by emotions seeing her son at work, bringing smiles to the faces of the campers, counselors, staff and even Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone.
“To him, youth is important,” Petrone said Monday. “If he touches just one life and changes one person, all of this is worth it.”
Once he was done working, Strub spent the night at his childhood home before a day of rest Tuesday. On Wednesday, with just 10 days remaining, Strub visited Trenton, New Jersey.
It’s still unsure what Strub has planned for day No. 101, though.
“I envision our child working somewhere with children,” his mother said. “He spent many years after graduating from Binghamton University working in the adult arena in an office, writing, editing – that kind of work. But he just seems so happy with children. I don’t know what that work might be… but we’ll be interested to see what’s next for him.”