Local students step up for children’s hospital

Posted: March 8, 2013

The Winchester Star

Winchester Independent School Destination Imagination members Mavis Murdock (left), Nula Jones, Sarah Mercer, Ming McDonald and Grace Nyberg look over one of the frog pillows they made for a project. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)

KERNSTOWN — With the help of students at the Independent School of Winchester, children in a hospital in the Dominican Republic are able to have a more comfortable stay.

As part of their Destination Imagination community service project titled “Twelve Hands for the World,” six middle school students decided to go global by making pillows for a children’s hospital where there were none due to poverty.

The group was made up of seventh-graders Nula Jones, Ming McDonald and Mavis Murdock and sixth-graders Grace Nyberg, Sarah Mercer and Anise Soza.

“We were able to do something more global with more impact than just cleaning up a highway,” Grace said. “I feel like we made an impact even though it was such a small thing.”

Destination Imagination is an educational program in which student teams solve open-ended challenges and present a project at regional and state competitions.

The teens chose the Dominican Republic after Nula, who had visited the country, told them that the children there enjoy simple things, like playing with Coke bottles.

“Kids down there are happy with what they have,” she said.

The group raised $675 by sending out letters to friends and family and bought green fabric to make 20 pillows in the shape of frogs. They began sewing in November and shipped out the pillows at the end of January. They plan to send another 25 pillows soon.

The team’s gifts were met with smiles. According to a local woman who delivered the pillows, a hospitalized boy happily discarded his balled-up jeans that he was using for a pillow when he received the frog, and one child who was in hysterics was calmed only when she was given a pillow.

Since the project, the students have started questioning the necessity of material things in their lives.

“I look at my phone and think, ‘Do I really need this?’” Nula said.

At the beginning of the project, the team was set on winning at regionals. Now, the picture for them is a bit bigger.

“We made a difference in somebody’s life, and that’s winning itself,” Ming said.

The team will present a documentary of their project at the regional competition Saturday at Handley High School. The state competition will be held April 13 at Western Albemarle High School.

— Contact Rebecca Layne at rlayne@winchesterstar.com