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Students in York High School’s leadership class recently got into the holiday spirit by filling half a school bus with toys for kids at Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters.
York High’s “Stuff the Bus” drive, now in its second year, is part of a larger initiative started five years ago at Seaford Elementary School by Wes Pak, a student who was undergoing chemotherapy to treat his neuroblastoma.
Pak, who was 5 years old at the time, was inspired to gather presents for the other kids he had become accustomed to seeing on CHKD’s oncology ward, and, with the help of his parents, he started a community toy drive.
Last year, some York County schools decided to lend a hand with the drive after a cousin of Pak’s came through the York High leadership class and his fellow students took an interest in granting a wish for the elementary school student.
The class put together a Dr. Who-themed party for Pak because of his love of the show, and many of the students got to know the young boy personally through that experience. They were moved by his efforts to give back despite facing his own harrowing ordeal, and when it came time to decide on a project to complete for the Christmas season, the leadership class knew they wanted to continue their relationship with Pak by joining in his toy drive.
“[The students] were brainstorming projects to do during the holidays, and they decided they wanted to help [Pak],” said Amy Holtschneider, the leadership class teacher.
The leadership class students distributed collection boxes to their own school as well as the three lower schools that feed into York High, which include Yorktown Middle, Yorktown Elementary and Seaford Elementary.
After promoting the drive in the schools and on social media for several weeks, the leadership class students got to spend a morning going around to each school and collect all the boxes.
The end result was six pallets and one wagon full of Lego sets, dolls, Star Wars figurines and other popular children’s toys, as well as gift cards to popular shopping destinations for teens. Holtschneider estimates the drive brought in double the amount of toys and goods as it did last year.
The “Stuff the Bus” contributions were mixed in with donations from Pak’s regular drive, amounting to around 13,000 toys to donate in total, Holtschneider estimates.
Last week four students from the leadership class were randomly selected to accompany their teacher to the hospital to see the toys distributed to the happy kids and teens there.
“I hope [this experience] teaches [my students] compassion and awareness of what other people are going through,” Holtschneider said. “I also think it’s important from an organizational standpoint. They’ve learned all the logistics that go into planning a big project like this, and that’s a valuable skill. We definitely plan to keep doing it in the future.”