Students focus on service at Bellwood

Whether it’s by collecting ChapStick for soldiers or selling candy grams to raise money for a classmate, the students and faculty at Bellwood Elementary School are always ready to lend a helping hand.

“There’s lots of emphasis on service,” said Assistant Principal Jennifer Rudd.

After a food drive, during which the school collected six flatbeds of food for the Christmas Mother program, students and teachers turned their attention to the ChapStick drive, Communities in Schools Site Coordinator Amy Bartilotti said. Bartilotti and her husband volunteered at the USO during the summer, she said, and “kind of the ongoing thing they were always out of was ChapStick.”

So, the students set out to collect tubes to send to soldiers overseas, she said. Bellwood is a Title I school, and its students understand the need to help those who are going without, she said. And, one of the key goals of Communities in Schools is “giving kids an opportunity to give back,” she said.

“You need to be a person of service at any level,” she said. “And a lot of our kids are military, so they were able to connect to that.”

In the midst of the ChapStick drive, the school shifted its attention to raising money for a student, Dalton Hayes, who was recently diagnosed with aplastic anemia. Ironbridge Sports Park will host a car show to raise money for the family in March. While Dalton and his family wait for a bone marrow match and transplant, the school is selling candy grams to raise money for the family.

So far, about 900 Valentine’s candy grams have been sold. Bellwood Elementary has about 450 students.

“The kids … have really just risen to the occasion,” Bartilotti said. “They are able to get what they need, so they feel secure to be generous.”

Makari Coleman, 10, is Bellwood’s Student Council president. Makari, who is in fifth grade, said it’s important to give back.

“It feels good because I get to do stuff for people that help us,” he said. The ChapStick drive “is for the people in the military, in the desert, because their lips get chapped.” By going to war, the soldiers are keeping the people at home free, he said, and “if they can do that for us, it would be nice for us to do this for them.”

Both Paige Hicks, 11, and Kaitlyn Guardado, 11, said giving to others felt “really good.”

“I feel like I’ve given the world something to help with,” said Kaitlyn, who, like Paige, is in fifth grade.

Bartilotti said the students also made a huge American flag out of paper stars; the flag will go to the USO with the ChapStick, she said. She said she isn’t sure what the school’s next service project will be.

“Actually, our next big task is finding a pig,” she said. Since the school has reached its goal of collecting 2,011 tubes of ChapStick, Rudd has to kiss a pig. “We did not think we were going to get there, but there were plenty of people who wanted to see us with the pig.”

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