Dec. 20, 2019
Boyce spreads holiday cheer
Fifth and sixth graders at Boyce Middle School in the Upper St. Clair School District are making the holidays brighter for children in need. The school’s 605 students filled a delivery truck with more than 700 brightly wrapped shoeboxes packed with tokens of support, friendship and love.
A Boyce tradition for more than 20 years, the Friendship Shoebox project asks students to fill a shoebox with small gifts to brighten the holidays for another child. Suggested items include personal care items; a small clothing item such as fun socks or gloves; something fun such as a craft, book, cards or small game; as well as a treat that may include gum, lollipops or other candy. The project is organized by the Boyce Middle School counselors, Amy Antonio and Tonia Autieri.
“The friendship shoebox project is so special because we have done this for over 20 years, and every year it is a success!” Mrs. Antonio, school counselor, said. “The students are involved in every step of the way. They shop for the supplies, they wrap the boxes and they help pass the boxes from the classroom to the delivery truck.”
Students line both sides of the school’s hallways in order to form a human assembly line to transport the packages from the classroom to the delivery truck. This process ensures that every student plays a vital role in getting the packages out of the school and into the hands of a fellow child.
The gift-wrapped shoeboxes are delivered to children in Washington County through Merakey, a nonprofit organization that serves children and families in need. The boxes are then distributed to children in foster care as well as those who receive services from Washington County Children & Youth Services and a local soup kitchen.
Earlier this month, the Upper St. Clair High School Kids Helping Kids Club held a Holiday Shoebox Drive of its own – repeating the students’ shared experience from Boyce Middle School. The drive resulted in 100 additional Friendship Shoeboxes.
“This project was special because, although Kids Helping Kids does outreach work across the globe, being able to help kids in our own backyard is something we always look to do,” Maddy Huzjak, an Upper St. Clair High School senior, said. “It was also great in the sense that it was something we all participated in at Boyce, so it was really cool to be able to get involved again as well as contribute to their overall total donations.”
When the Boyce school counselors learned of the Kids Helping Kids project, they invited the high school students to participate in the annual box pick-up. Five members of the high school’s KHK Club were stationed throughout the middle school’s hallways during the passing of the presents to assist with securing loose box lids and taping wrapping paper mishaps.
“It was great to be able to work with the guidance department and the students at Boyce and we're hoping to be able to sustain our relationship with them and continue to grow the Friendship Shoebox project at Upper St. Clair High School in years to come,” Maddy said.
Ultimately, school officials hope that these community service projects help to instill empathy and a willingness to lend a hand to those in need.
“The Friendship Shoebox event aligns perfectly with our building theme for this year, ‘We Rise by Lifting Others,’ and it is our hope that students learn the importance of giving back and demonstrating kindness towards others,” Dan O’Rourke, Boyce Middle School principal, said. “The Friendship Shoebox event is one of the many community service opportunities that we offer for our fifth and sixth graders, and we are committed to continuing to provide students with opportunities to help others in the community.”
This school year Boyce Middle School students have participated in a variety of community service projects. In October, the school celebrated #socktober!
“We sold crazy socks and collected new socks, and all proceeds – over $900 – and socks were donated to the Washington City Mission,” Mrs. Antonio said.
All year long the Boyce school community is collecting pop tops to benefit the Ronald McDonald House. One thousand pop tops cover the cost of a family spending the night at the Ronald McDonald House. In November, students had collected nearly 8,000.
Boyce students and families also donated Halloween candy in order to share with servicemen and women in the U.S. Armed Forces.
“Each student wrote a letter to a soldier and we mailed the candy collected and letters to soldiers who are currently serving,” Mrs. Antonio said.
Last week, Boyce Middle School received a return email from one of the recipients – Petty Officer 2nd Class Nathan Bishop, who is currently serving on board the USS New York in the U.S. Navy.
“Thank you so very much for the letters we received from you all! It means the world to us sailors and military members to receive these letters,” he wrote. “Being out to sea, we cannot always be in contact with our families and friends so getting letters like these give us the encouragement and drive to continue the fight to protect each and every one of you.”