Summer vacation usually means taking a break from routine chores like dusting and mowing the lawn. But not for the Mursets.
In fact, chores were the main reason this Arizona family of eight spent three weeks in an RV driving across the country. Instead of picking up souvenirs and T-shirts, they picked up shovels and paintbrushes in 25 cities along a 6,511-mile route.
Parents Gregg and Kami Murset strive to instill a strong work ethic in their six children, ages seven to 16, even during summer vacation.
“This family trip was really different than any other we have ever taken,” said Gregg Murset, creator of MyJobChart.com, an online tracking system to keep up with chores and other tasks. He enlisted the help of five charities to find people for his family to serve: Autism Speaks, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Cookies for Kids Cancer, National MPS Society and Folds of Honor Foundation which assists families of fallen and disabled veterans.
The trip began at the Murset home in Queen Creek, Arizona, on June 29. The family loaded into an RV that would be hard to miss. A large, colorful logo illustrated their commitment to work across America and let other drivers know that it carried “kids helping kids.” They headed east, eventually reaching New York City before turning south and making a circle along the Gulf Coast. Along the way, the Mursets stopped at pre-determined locations to complete service projects.
In Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Mursets stacked wood, mowed the lawn and performed other chores for the family of nine-year-old Zaida, who has cancer.
“It was so nice to see how happy it made the family that we came and served them,” said Sierra Murset, 15. They sold baked goods at a Cookies for Kids Cancer fundraiser and folded laundry at Brent’s Place, a home where families can stay while children undergo cancer treatments.
In Missouri, the Mursets pulled weeds at a Ronald McDonald House and did chores for the family of Noah, another cancer patient. Sydney Murset, 13, was especially impressed that young Noah was spearheading his own service project: collecting colorful bandages for other patients “because he doesn’t like the ugly brown ones,” Sydney explained. “I thought it was so smart.” The Mursets loaded 950 boxes of bandages into their RV and delivered them to a hospital.
The Mursets trimmed bushes at an assisted living facility in Chicago and moved a family’s belongings into their new home in New York City. They washed windows and mowed lawns in North Carolina. They raked leaves and pulled weeds in Georgia. They served families dealing with autism, lymphoma, leukemia and mucopolysaccharidoses (MPS).
Each day, they posted photos and journal entries on the MyJobChart.com website. Their progress was tracked on a map for their followers. They were interviewed by local television stations and recognized by viewers as they stopped to work.
And somewhere along the way, the Mursets realized that they were doing much more than chores.
“Before we came on this trip my hope was that it would open the eyes of my children and give them a better view on life,” said Kami Murset. She recounts meeting a mother of two autistic children who serves on the board of Autism Speaks, a group that helps other families with similar challenges. “I have six chatterboxes; she has a son who never speaks. What I didn’t take into account was how much my own eyes would be opened… more determined to be a better mother for my own children and not take things for granted.”
Gregg Murset agrees that his family has been impacted by the unusual vacation.
“When we started on this journey, I had some very high expectations,” he said. “That we would be able to serve a lot of people and that the experience would affect our kids in some very profound ways. In both of these areas, my expectations have been far surpassed.”
In between completing a total of 332 chores, the Mursets were able to fit in a bit of sightseeing, including visits to the Statue of Liberty and Niagara Falls. But the highlights of their unusual vacation can’t be found on the pages of a travel magazine.
They include serving a family whose three generations currently suffer from the same cancer. Making 120 burritos for families staying at a Ronald McDonald House. And biting a few nails while Mom took a turn at driving the RV and Dad pretended to rest.
Most of all, the Mursets will remember that a great summer vacation doesn’t mean leaving the chores at home.
Evelyn Hendrix lives in Arizona where she is never forced to scrape ice from her windshield. She often writes about family, education, health and quirky people who simply make life more interesting.