Penn's Grove student leads toy drive for hospitalized children

Courtesy photo Pennís Grove Middle School seventh grader Sarah Price with the 18 boxes of toys donated by students and staff for delivery to the patients at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del.

Penn’s Grove Middle School students and staff, and their family members, recently participated in a Valentine’s Day project that came straight from the heart of an outstanding young lady and provided a lot of love to the patients at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del.

Seventh grader Sarah Price and several friends coordinated a school-wide toy drive from January 22 through February 8 which resulted in 18 boxes of toys being delivered to Nemours on February 13, just in time for Valentine’s Day. They were assisted throughout the project by Karen Edmunds, secretary to Principal Lisa Stenz.

Sarah had originally thought about organizing a toy drive during the recent holiday season. “I wanted to do something for others at Christmas instead of just receiving gifts,” she said.

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After talking about her idea with her sister Ashley, a sophomore at Oxford Area High School, Sarah decided she would like to collect toys for children who had to spend Christmas in hospital. Nemours was not too far away, and Sarah had minor surgery there when she was younger.

Sarah presented her idea for a school-wide toy drive to Penn’s Grove Principal Lisa Stenz. She was enthusiastic about the project but suggested the drive be held after the holiday season due to the number of service projects taking place at the school during that time, such as the annual Adopt-a-Family initiative for the Oxford Neighborhood Services Center.

“Mrs. Stenz and Mrs. Edmunds thought we could have the drive in February for Valentine’s Day,” said Sarah. “So we called the drive ‘Gifts From the Heart.’”

After finding her name on the Nemours website, Sarah e-mailed Alaina Norvell, the hospital’s Child Life Assistant, with her idea. Mrs. Norvell was thrilled with the proposal and sent Sarah a “wish list” of toys, games and other items that the young patients would enjoy.

Sarah appeared on the school’s morning newscast to explain the project and encourage the seventh and eighth graders to make donations. She and her friends decorated boxes that were placed in each homeroom along with the wish list for students and teachers to donate new, unwrapped toys, games, books, and DVDs.

Sarah’s parents, Jamie and Jim, helped kick-start the drive by purchasing Play-Doh sets and coloring books and crayons for each box. The donations eventually filled 18 boxes designed to hold reams of paper.

Sarah and her friends, along with Ashley and Mrs. Price, delivered the toys to Nemours on February 13. “Delivering the toys to A.I. duPont was a really good experience,” she said. “It was very chaotic because so many people were coming and going, and it made me realize how many children benefit from this hospital and how many are in need of medical treatment.”

Mrs. Norvell talked with the students about the hospital and thanked them and Penn’s Grove for such a generous donation. “She also explained the many uses for the donations,” said Sarah. “They have a recreation room where patients can go if they feel well enough to play games and do crafts. They also take toys to the patients who are not well enough to leave their rooms.

“Mrs. Norvell also told us that some patients are there for long periods of time and sometimes have to spend their birthdays or holidays in the hospital, so some of the donated items are used as birthday or holiday presents.”

Growing up, Sarah was eager help in any community service projects she could. At Penn’s Grove she and her friends participate in the TerraCycle program coordinated by family and consumer sciences teacher Jennifer Bartnik.

During study halls the TerraCycle “brigade” prepares empty Frito Lay snack bags and juice packs from the cafeteria for “up-cycling,” a process where the used packaging bypasses the landfill and is made into a variety of new products including purses and tote bags that are sold at retailers nationwide and online. Penn’s Grove receives $0.02 for each approved chip bag or juice pouch sent to Frito Lay for up-cycling.

“Sarah did an extraordinary job with the toy drive,” said Mrs. Stenz. “From the start she was extremely thorough in every detail and could answer all the questions I had about the project when she presented it to me. Our school motto is PRIDE, which stands for Power, Respect, Integrity, Dependability and Empathy. Sarah models those values every day, and I’m looking forward to seeing her do great things here at Penn’s Grove and in high school.”

“The toy drive was a positive and rewarding experience for me and the other girls,” said Sarah. “I had a lot of fun organizing this project and I am looking forward to making it an annual event.”