Chapstick, socks, crayons and bandages. Although small, these items could potentially mean the world to those affected by Hurricane Sandy.
Wanting to give back to the many who lost so much, Patti Ardito’s first-grade class is collecting these items for students affected by the devastating storm. An initiative that started with a letter from first-grader Katie Flynn, the drive has now grown into a schoolwide effort.
“It was completely student-generated,” says Ardito.
Katie says her cousin had started a fundraiser called Seniors for Seniors, and that with a little encouragement from mom and help from her twin Sammie, she penned a letter to Oakview Elementary principal Sally Cohill suggesting the school create a similar charity.
Thus spawned Oakview Students4Students—an initiative by Oakview Elementary first-graders to help first-graders affected by Hurricane Sandy.
Still in the very early stages, collections are already beginning at Oakview after both Katie and Sammie brought in 13 wrapped collection boxes to be placed in each classroom. Both students of Ardito, the Flynn sisters' initiative is now a joint effort, with all of their classmates willing to help. In an effort to promote the collection, Ardito’s first-graders have illustrated dozens of construction paper signs to hang around the school.
“I love the fact that with these service projects, students are learning that they can make a difference in the world,” says Cohill.
As they wait for formal approval for the drive from the West Deptford Board of Education, Ardito and Cohill are preparing letters to be sent to the parents of all first-graders at Oakview Elementary. Afterward, the class will start gathering items over the next three or four weeks.
Following the drive, Ardito and her students plan to use the school’s gym to sort the items—boxing them and sending them off to Blankets for Brigantine & Beyond—a Gloucester Township-based relief effort launched by resident Linda Nese.
Fortunate enough to have her summer home in Brigantine spared, Nese began the drive with her daughter to help those less fortunate in Brigantine and surrounding areas. Ardito explains all supplies collected will be delivered by the effort to Atlantic County students affected by Hurricane Sandy.
“We help other people because they lost their things,” says first-grader Cameron Greco.
The students have even offered up suggestions to Ardito for donations of cars, furniture and cash. Yet, Ardito explains that it may be a little difficult to house cars and furniture, since they are limited by the size of the school.
But with a generosity that knows no boundaries, these first-graders have no doubts when it comes down to looking out for their peers—even if they are 60 miles away.
“We’re supposed to care for one another," says first-grader Evie Barrett, "even if we don’t know them.”
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