Started a toy & donation drive for
local orgs. and hospital
When I was in 5th grade, I decided I wanted to do something to help others. My mom and I sat down together and talked through ways I could help in our community. I realized that one thing that was very important to me was to be able to help other kids and decided to raise money to buy toys for our local children’s hospital. I had spent time in the hospital for a couple of minor surgeries and remembered how scary it was to be surrounded by doctors and nurses, hooked up to tubes and beeping machines. I remembered former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly and his wife, Jill, coming into my room to give me a teddy bear from their foundation, Hunters Hope.
Just that small act meant so much and that bear sits on my bed to this day as a daily reminder of how important it is to help others.
My first year fundraising I did a dress down day at my school and raised over $1000. It was such a success and I was able to take a car full of toys down to Oishei Children’s Hospital, in Buffalo, NY. I decided then that I wanted it to become an annual event. Since that first year, my efforts have changed and grown substantially. Throughout high school I would make a yearly craft that I would sell at our high school homecoming carnival. I have learned many things from this ongoing experience. I have learned responsibility with my entrepreneurial and business skills as I have had to research new ideas for the yearly craft, and determine the proper cost for selling the craft based on the costs to purchase supplies. My goal was always to make the most money possible to help purchase toys for the patients and being fiscally responsible was integral in that endeavor.
My leadership skills have advanced as I have learned appreciation, having had to ask for help with my efforts over the years from friends and family as my reach grew further with each year. Most importantly, I have learned more about empathy and how a simple act of kindness can change a persons’ entire day. There is nothing in this world more fulfilling than seeing the smile on a child’s face as you offer up the chance to pick from any toy they want on a gurney that you take from room to room. There is nothing more heartwarming than having a parent follow you out of the room to hug you and cry on your shoulder as they thank you for your kindness. As of today, I have donated over $20,000 in toys and gift cards to the children who are being helped at Oishei Children’s hospital.
This year, with COVID-19 taking over our society, my ability to fundraise and donate has changed dramatically. My high school didn’t have a homecoming. There was no Christmas craft show to participate in to sell anything. I am fortunate enough to have a following who have supported me throughout the years and they continue to do so now. I have been able to make and sell novelty cups to raise money. This year, my donations have gone to the Family Justice Center in my home town of Orchard Park, NY. It was a whole new experience dropping off toys and gifts to a small, non-assuming home, wearing masks and gloves, and meeting someone new for the first time. I learned more about how the Family Justice Center helps women and children in need to provide them a safe haven from abusive situations. It opened my eyes to some of the increased danger that COVID-19 has brought to our community and made me happy to know that I could help someone in a new and exciting way.
After the loss of my uncle to a rare form of cancer, and after watching my grandfather go through numerous rounds of treatments for 3 different cancers he dealt with, I felt the desire to get involved with another local hospital, the Roswell Park Cancer Institute. I applied for a position on the Yroswell Street Team which is a youth group that participates in monthly sessions learning about cancer prevention and research that is happening at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY. We then take the information we learn and go into the community at events held throughout the year to teach others with the goal to “create a world without cancer”. It has made me recognize how important it is to have facilities available to the community to help support families during times of crisis.
I am currently in my sophomore year at Niagara University, studying Hotel Hospitality/Sports Management with a minor in American Sign Language. My ultimate goal is to open a bed and breakfast in the city of Buffalo, down near our newly formed medical district. I want families who need to travel for medical care to have somewhere they can stay affordably, short term or long, where they can have a sense of home, and a sense of comfort as they deal with the daily struggles of life. I want to be there as a support for families so they have someone to turn to at the end of the day.