The idea for this program began with Shannon Hamilton, Bucks IU Autistic Support Teacher, wanting to send some holiday cheer to her Marine Corps brother and fellow Marines who were stationed overseas during the holidays. The thought was to send them goodies such as granola bars, gum, mints, basic hygiene items, puzzle books, etc. along with a personal note. Ms. Hamilton worked with other teachers and therapists to make this a student project by incorporating all the tasks and activities needing to be completed, and be set-up to correlate to the individual educational needs of the school’s students with special needs.
Starting in September, donations of items to go into the stockings begin to arrive. From opening boxes and sorting items, keeping a detailed inventory, to counting and bagging candies, and even making a card for every stocking, this project allows every single child in the school to participate in some way. Physical and occupational therapy skills are supported by practicing things such as manual dexterity, mobility, gripping, and balance. Soft skills (e.g., interpersonal skills) also get practiced as students find themselves having to work together, learning to be patient, and having to share. Some activities support academic skills such as math (counting, tracking), computer skills (entering data), and English (writing notecards).
This program also provides an opportunity for students to give back to others by giving of their time and effort in an expression of sharing and caring. This is a fun, learning, and giving program they look forward to participating in every year.
Providing a great spirit boost to the students were visits during the assembly day by Bucks IU senior personnel as well as by local legislators. Senator Maria Collett, PA 12th District, came by to learn more about this program and see how it works first-hand. Representative Wendi Thomas, 178th Legislative District, and Representative Tina Davis, 141s Legislative District, also made the time to come by once again this year. Everyone jumped right in and started helping to assemble stockings in support of the program and students.
Dr. Mark Hoffman, Bucks IU Executive Director, stated, “Seeing a program that promotes giving, caring, and community that is also successfully adapted to meet the individual educational plans of our students, is truly heartwarming. The smiles and excitement of the students combined with the learning, and helping others is a wonderful representation of our Bucks IU programs and efforts of our outstanding staff.”
Through the donation of goods, services, funds, and time, this program is made possible by so many. “Fore the Troops” is a nonprofit charitable organization that raises money to support philanthropic organizations focused on programs and support of military personnel and their families. They have been an avid supporter of the program and once again generously donated $6,528 to cover all the shipping costs of the 345 boxes of stockings sent to troops all over the world.
Additionally, thanks go out to:
*Tawanka Elementary (Neshaminy School District) where each grade was assigned a specific item to bring in (granola bars, gum, etc.) resulting in an entire truckload of donations.
*Maple Point Middle School (Neshaminy School District) 8th graders who started simply collecting change and with their donation drive expanded, raised over $800.
*Schools and daycares collecting donations, being a community drop-off site, and/or making cards: Mill Creek Elementary (Bristol Township School District), Valley Elementary (Bensalem School District), Cornwells Elementary (Bensalem School District), Snyder Middle School (Bensalem School District) and Bensalem High School (made over 750 cards), Kiddie Academy (in Feasterville and Warminster), Bucks IU (Doylestown).
*Tre Fratelli (Langhorne) who donated 300 stockings when the program was unsure if there would be enough.
*VFW 9220 (Bensalem), assisted by VFW 9198 (Andalusia), who donated over $1000 worth of stocking goodies.
*Various Giant Supermarkets, BJs, and Sam’s Club who supported the Bucks IU with their very generous donations.
*The many individuals, businesses, and organizations who donated directly at drop-off sites and/or through the program’s online wish lists.
PHOTO CAP: Representative Tina Davis (left) and Dr. Mark Hoffman, Bucks IU Executive Director, display the stockings they are in the process of stuffing.