Peanut butter, jelly, cookies, lemonade and math are some of the ingredients that children at PS 307 in the Bronx are using to heal big hurts in the world.
In the Giving Back Project, under the leadership of 5th-grade teacher Alicia Fontan and 4th-grade teacher Sheila McChesney, small hands and big hearts are raising funds for kids who have cancer and other catastrophic diseases.
It’s hard to say exactly who is inspiring who.
“The kids naturally want to help others and are so self-motivated it’s like they can’t give enough,” said McChesney, who became active in the project after witnessing that spirit.
The children are inspired by their teachers, who help them develop the skills and savvy needed to bring their ideas to fruition.
And, sadly, all are inspired by the memory of Principal Luisa Fuentes, who died of cancer in April and who was a guiding force in service learning.
Originally involving only the 5th grade, the project has been expanded to include 3rd- and 4th-graders, said McChesney.
During the day, time is given for students to participate in the Math-A-Thon of St. Jude Children’s Hospital, the Tennessee institution that treats seriously ill children no matter where they are from or their families’ ability to pay.
In the Math-A-Thon, the kids at PS 307 are backed by sponsors for solving math problems, which translates into donations.
Locks of Love, a nonprofit organization providing hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children suffering from long-term medical hair loss, is a beneficiary of the project’s after-school club.
Another beneficiary of the club is the soup kitchen and pantry of the Bronx community organization POTS (Part Of The Solution).
According to McChesney, lemonade now figures into the business plan for charitable giving. After their teachers read them the nonfiction book “Alex’s Lemonade Stand,” written in memory of a little girl with cancer who was determined to raise money for a cure by selling lemonade on her street, the children put the drink on their menu of love.