People of CRH: Gabe Menendez

The Healing Power of Play

“Play is the exultation of the possible.” — Martin Buber, Philosopher

All children who come to CRH are suffering. While some arrive with visible wounds, all come with invisible ones: abuse, neglect and trauma. With those major life issues to deal with, some may ask what good is something as seemingly minor as a baseball game, art project or trip to the park. According to CRH Recreational Supervisor Gabe Menendez, these everyday activities are key to helping our CRH kids heal.

A five-year CRH employee, Gabe started his career here as an On-Call Residential Counselor while working on his recreation administration degree at nearby Sacramento State University. His original calling was to be a cruise director: organizing hospitality, entertainment and social events on tourist ships. But helping children was also part of the equation.

“I knew working with kids was something I always wanted to do as well,” he said. “That was how I found myself at the Children’s Receiving Home of Sacramento. I fell in love with the agency!”

Gabe’s CRH assignments took him all over the campus, at all hours, including night shifts for two and a half years as Overnight Supervisor. Working with a unique population of children and youth – under every physical, emotional and behavioral circumstance – built his Receiving Home skill set. When a new position for Recreational Supervisor opened just as he completed his degree, he was encouraged by coworkers to apply and was quickly hired.

Now in his recreational position, Gabe’s days are action-packed. He oversees, organizes and implements multiple daily activities – and evening ones, too—for children and youth ranging from on-campus sports and events to off-campus outings and field trips, all aimed at helping children in crisis remember what it’s like to really be a child again.

He recalled a recent football game where a girl caught a game time touchdown pass, giving out such a joyous yell at her awesome accomplishment that everyone – kids and staff—laughed and joined in.

“Recreation and play help them build teamwork as well as all their skills: physical, mental and emotional,” he said. “Seeing them excited is what it’s all about – that’s what’s rewarding.”