HOPE Week: Students pack kits for disadvantaged

At the start of the 2014-15 academic year, Robert Gardella, principal of the Southern Boulevard School in Chatham Township, N.J., embraced that core concept and adapted the HOPE Week initiative for his school. Principal Gardella, along with the school’s Parent Teacher Organization, wanted to reorganize the school’s service projects by taking inspiration from the Yankees’ HOPE Week.

Throughout the week of Nov. 17-21, 2014, kindergartners created weekend snack kits for low-income children who participate in the free lunch program. First-graders made care packages with essentials like diapers, baby wipes and other toiletries for infants from disadvantaged families in the local community.

Second-graders were tasked with making no-sew fleece blankets for Project Linus, an organization that provides blankets for children in need, whether it’s from illness, homelessness or abuse. Third-graders made “Holiday Hope Chests,” which consisted of decorated shoe boxes filled with small toys and art supplies which were distributed to children in local shelters during the holiday season.

Dozens of Southern Boulevard School students were at Yankee Stadium Wednesday to meet and spend time with outfielder Carlos Beltran, shortstop Didi Gregorius, pitcher Luis Severino and bench coach Rob Thompson, who thanked them for their service to the community.

Principal Gardella, accompanied by students Claire O’Rourke and Bennett Polomeni, threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Yankees’ game against the Twins. After the game, the students and the Yankees players were to enjoy an ice cream party in the press conference room at the Stadium.

The school also encouraged students to apply the HOPE Week sentiment at home by seeking out items that could be donated to different causes. They created “Caring Corners” in the school, where students could bring in items to donate. One corner benefitted Jersey Coats, which assists families with coats during the cold winter months. Students also collected pennies for the Pennies of Peace program, which provides school supplies for children in impoverished communities overseas. The participation in this program is designed to broaden students’ horizons by teaching them about the impact they can make on a global scale.

By getting everyone involved—from the office staff, to the teachers, to the students and their families — the Southern Boulevard School used inspiration from the Yankees to show their students the internal rewards that come from making a difference in the lives of others.

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