Written by Chris Boyle Thursday, 21 November 2013 00:00
Learning the valuable lesson at an early age that it is better to give than to receive, the fifth-grade students of Saddle Rock Elementary School recently presented a one-of-a-kind mural to the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island in
New Hyde Park as a part of the charity’s ongoing “Give A Hand” fundraising promotion.
Matthew Campo, executive director of the Ronald McDonald House, noted that the Long Island charity has been serving as a home away from home for families of sick kids since it originally opened in 1986.
“While a child stays at a local area hospital, we are housing their family and providing for as many of their needs as we can so they can focus on what’s happening at the hospital,” he said. “We have 42 bedrooms at our New Hyde Park building, and we also have a satellite location in a hospital in Suffolk County.”
However, despite being affiliated with a major corporation, the Ronald McDonald House is a non-profit organization, and therefore relies heavily on the generosity of others to be able to continue their important work; that, Campo said, is where the community comes in.
“We have a thriving school program...we like to go out into the community and get the kids involved at an early age,” he said. “This does a few things for us...first, it helps fundraise for the house, and second, it gives the kids the opportunity to get involved in community service.”
Campo noted that Saddle Rock has been an active fundraising participant for the Ronald McDonald House for the past three years; in that time, he said, they have raised an eyebrow-raising $15,000 for their “Give A Hand” fundraiser, which helps greatly towards keeping the House afloat.
Eric Nezowitz, principal of Saddle Rock Elementary School, said that his administration is trying to foster an environment of caring and selflessness throughout all of his students by getting them involved in helping others.
“We were trying to promote service learning projects through the different grades in our school, and we decided to have our fifth-graders work with the Ronald McDonald House,” he said. “So, our fifth-graders are now starting their fourth year in working with the House to help raise money, and it’s been a great partnership.”
Karen Heitner, literacy coordinator of Saddle Rock, helped to shape the fundraising efforts of the fifth-grade class after first getting the kids familiar with the work the Ronald McDonald House does for the public.
“One of our parents was a board member at the Ronald McDonald House, and she reached out to us to help with fundraising...Principal Nezowitz asked me to take this on, and I said absolutely,” she said.”
Rosemary Sloggatt, visual art teacher at Saddle Rock, oversaw the creation of a lovely mural created by the entire fifth-grade class for presentation to the Ronald McDonald House.
“We wanted something that would include all of the fifth-graders, so we decided on a handprint project,” she said. “Each child decorated a handprint cutout of their own hand, which we then incorporated into a cohesive work of art. We decided to base our mural on a piece by Pablo Picasso which depicts a hand holding a bouquet of flowers.”
The mural, lovingly hand-crafted and inscribed with words of encouragement by the fifth-graders as a symbol of their support of the Ronald McDonald House over the last several years, will be framed and hung in the building’s kitchen to be seen by resident families every day.
Nezowitz expressed a great deal of pride for the hard work of the students under his watch; it makes the job more than worth it to see them actively turning into responsible and compassionate young men and women, he said.
“I’ve been a principal for the past 10 years, and this is the thing that makes me smile the most,” he said. “Especially when kids get this invested in it and they want to do it...when they don’t do it for any other reason other than to help people. They really do get that, and they have such empathy for others.”
Campo expressed his appreciation for the hard work of the kids of Saddle Rock on behalf of the Ronald McDonald House, and noted that their good deeds are something that the public needs to know more about.
“Kids are out future, and we would not survive as an organization without the support of the community,” he said. “So, giving kids an opportunity to get involved in a really meaningful way has been very impactful for us.”