On any given day, in just about every Catholic school, students are involved in the effort to help others. From raising funds for worthy non-profits, to visiting nursing homes and stocking food pantries, there is no limit to the many acts of charity and kindness that are undertaken as part of the Catholic school experience.
But over the next few weeks, the 31 Catholic elementary schools in the Diocese of Trenton will be dedicating themselves to a single service project, and the beneficiaries will be sick children and their families in about a dozen hospitals spanning Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean Counties.
This year, the Diocese’s Catholic Schools Day of Service – an annual effort first launched in 2015 – will feature the collection of gift cards and new items that will be donated to participating hospitals with the aim of making time spent there by young patients and their families more comfortable and pleasant. With the key focus of kids helping kids, the 2018 campaign has as its theme “Hearts to Hospitals: Hearts to Lead – Hands to Help.”
Students began the collection effort March 22 by enlisting the support of their families, their parish communities and business persons within their wider communities. Among the desired items are coloring books and art supplies, small toys, small stuffed animals (no larger than eight inches), books, games and crafts. Other requested items include gift cards for convenience stores, restaurants, coffee shops, gas stations and grocery stores in any denomination. Candy or “goodie bags” will be collected and assembled as well for hospital staff who work with the children.
Collections will conclude by April 27, the official Day of Service, when students in all of the schools will work together to assemble the donated items and package them into gift bags for the hospital patients. Those packages will then be delivered to the participating hospitals the week of April 29.
To raise awareness about “Hearts to Hospitals: Hearts to Lead – Hands to Help,” the Diocese conducted a logo contest that drew 539 entries from students. Kayla Tarniowy, a third grader in St. Benedict School, Holmdel, submitted the winning entry, a red heart containing a black and white drawing of a hospital and the smiling faces of a girl and a boy. The theme is lettered at the bottom. Every gift bag, card, poster and letter created for the Day of Service will feature Kayla’s design.
Kayla, who had previously earned the distinction of “Artist to Watch” by her school, was acknowledged for her winning logo March 23 when Judy Nicastro, representing the diocesan Department of Catholic Schools, visited St. Benedict School to personally congratulate her.
A slideshow sampling some of the hundreds of entries is now running on diocesan media.
Some of the schools are using the singular focus of “Hearts to Hospitals: Hearts to Lead – Hands to Help” as the basis for learning about their faith-based responsibilities to help the sick and key issues that impact childhood health issues. The cause of sick children will also inspire ongoing prayer in the school communities.
Anyone interested in supporting “Hearts to Hospitals: Hearts to Lead – Hands to Help,” is invited to bring new items or gift cards to the designated drop-off site at each local Catholic elementary school in the Diocese. Go to dioceseoftrenton.org for a listing of Catholic schools in the Diocese. You can also follow this campaign on social media by searching for #hearts2hospitals and #dotdayofservice2018.
For more information on this effort, contact Judy Nicastro, Department of Catholic Schools, at (609) 403-7217; firstname.lastname@example.org.