This post is sponsored by Indiana Soybean Alliance.

One of the (selfish) reasons I love volunteering is that it always teaches me something. When I take the time to serve, I learn more about my community, about others, and even about myself. During my most recent volunteer experience, I learned something valuable about my kids. Something that makes me very proud to be their mom.

The Indiana Soybean Alliance invited me and my boys to join Future Farmers of America Chapters from all over the state as they put together packages of food that will be distributed to kids and families in need. We gathered with hundreds of other Hoosiers at Lucas Oil Stadium to combine ingredients, seal bags, and pack boxes at the Million Meal Marathon, sponsored by Kids Against Hunger/Thrive360. Our goal for the day was to pack 1.2 million bags of a nutritionally complete meal mix that would then be given to needy families all over the state through their local food banks.

Million Meal Marathon

I was a little nervous about bringing a five- and four-year-old with me, because the only thing for them to do was help out. There weren’t any toys, games, or cartoons — just hair nets, dried veggies, and cardboard boxes. But we found the perfect task for them, and soon they went to work flattening down the plastic bags of soy/rice/veggie mix that were being assembled so we could pack them into boxes. Colt’s defensive end Cory Redding jumped in to help, and my boys were happy to show him how it’s done.

Cory Redding Helps Out

Being able to help so many Hoosier families through our efforts was truly awesome. But the best part of the day for me was to see how hard my boys worked, without complaining. They were ROCK STARS. For over two hours, they patted down bags and packed boxes with smiles on their faces. The oldest even asked, “When can we do this again?”

Cory Redding Helps Out

My kids impressed everyone there with their hard work, but no one was more impressed or surprised than I was. I won’t lie; I was expecting whining and complaining at some point in the morning. But I underestimated my kids and their capacity for giving. I am proud of many of the things my kids have accomplished, but I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud than I was when I saw how hard they were willing to work to help others, while receiving nothing in return.

Packing Down Bags at the Million Meal Marathon

What have I learned? I’ve learned that I need to give my kids tangible opportunities to give back. I’ve learned I shouldn’t let my concerns about their behavior or attitude keep them from the chance to serve others. I’ve learned that I need to seek out more places where we can volunteer as a family. And I’ve learned that sometimes I don’t give my kids enough credit.

I’m so thankful that we could play a small part in feeding Hoosier families in need. But, as it always seems to be with volunteering, I feel like we received so much more than we gave.