A heartbreaking, heartwarming week

Two weeks ago, 9-year-old Arie Burton placed second in the UrbanPromise Poetry Contest (see poem below). Arie sparkled like a diamond. Winning a $10 gift card for her effort etched an indelible smile on her face. 

By Sunday afternoon, little Arie was on life support at Cooper Hospital—brain dead from a tragic car accident involving her family. In the midst of their grief, her family made an incredible decision: to honor Arie's sweet and giving personality, they donated her organs to others in need. Her heart was given to a child in desperate need of a transplant.

The heart-wrenching loss left her family and our community stunned and confused.

“Her poem was brilliant,” reminisced a tearful Tony Vega, Arie’s Camp Director. “Her words so insightful…beyond her years. She was so happy and proud of her accomplishment. I can’t believe she’s gone.” 

It’s been a difficult few weeks.

Like many weeks at UrbanPromise, there is a mixture of joy and pain.  Working in a community like Camden, we experience inordinate amounts of tragedy and loss. No matter how it arrives, it’s never easy. 

And yet our team somehow chooses to move forward in love and hope—even at the risk of pain and loss.  Maybe it’s because God shows up in other ways.

Seeing 60 spring break-celebrating college students choose Camden over Cancun encouraged our hearts, reminding us that there are young adults in the world who still want to follow Jesus by serving others.

Watching Jodina Hicks, our gifted and talented Executive Director, be recognized as a “New Jersey Hero” last Wednesday by our state’s first lady, Mary Pat Christie, bolstered our spirits. After serving families and youth in Camden for so many years, it was nice to see Jodina recognized for her many contributions.

Listening to 150 junior high kids laugh and scream at the annual UrbanPromise Olympics, full of mucky games and wacky skits, affirmed our mission to provide fun, safe, beautiful alternatives to the dangers of the streets.

And this past Friday witnessing 250 donors attend our Taste of Promise, cheering our kids on and donating nearly $70,000 was a needed boost of encouragement. They reminded our team that there are many humble and generous people in the world.

Yes–it’s been a difficult, unforgettable few weeks.  In the midst of it all, I’m grateful for your prayers, friendship, and belief that we can be a presence for God’s love, compassion, and justice.

Bruce Main


P.S. If you are interested in making a donation to Arie's family to help with expenses during this heartbreaking time we have set up a fund and 100% of the money will go to the family. Click here to make a donation. Thank you for your help!

A poem by Arie

Below is a poem that Arie wrote on 3/14/14 just days before the accident that took her life. Arie placed second at the poetry contest that night. 

Kids are crying
People are dying

See the world that I’m living in?

People are talking ghetto in the streets and kids repeat

Do you see the world I live in?

Don't ever be a bystander cause kids would think that’s cool

If your getting bullied don’t let him grind you in the dirt

Because he's just a jerk

He tries to hurt you because he's hurt

But deep inside he's not a jerk

He thinks that’s how things work

Do you know who he Is?

He is Camden
Camden wasn’t a bully at first

Until we started treating him like dirt

That’s why he's a bully

But deep inside he's not a bully

Do u see the world I’m living in?