Helping hands SCHENECTADY

Second-graders make gift bags for ill children

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MARC SCHULTZ/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

At Van Corlaer Elementary School in Schenectady, Jen Riley’s second-grade class made gift bags for students in the cancer ward at Albany Medical Center. Putting together the gift bags, from left, are, Jasiya Brothers, Tyleah Shepard, Isabella Gentile, Dillan Armour and Nick Countermine.

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MARC SCHULTZ/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER

Dillan Armour completes a gift bag for students in the cancer ward at Albany Medical Center.

Jasiya Brothers and Isabella Gentile, second graders at Van Corlaer Elementary School, talked over each other as they excitedly showed off gift bags they were making for kids neither of them know.

The 7-year-old girls won’t get to deliver the gift bags or even meet the recipients of them, because they are going to a place where a small sneeze can become a big problem: the Bernard & Millie Duker Children’s Hospital at Albany Medical Center.

The bags contained all the pieces necessary for a small project that the kids at the hospital could use to make a gift for a nurse or doctor, fellow patient or family member. The gift delivery was focused on kids in the cancer wing of the children’s hospital, with the remainder being distributed to other kids.

“It’s so they won’t have to be lonely and have nothing to do while they are taking their medicine and stuff,” Jasiya said.

Jen Riley’s second-grade class made around 30 of the craft bags last week, and classroom volunteer Chris Wtodarczak planned to deliver them to the hospital on Friday. Wtodarczak, who volunteers through the Reading is Fun program, said she came up with the idea for the gift bags after one of the students asked her a question.

“One of the kids said to me, ‘What can we do for someone else who doesn’t have as much as we do?’ ” Wtodarczak said.

December is “Kindness Month” at Van Corlaer and in Riley’s room, where each day they learn a new kind act. So the gift bag activity fi t in nicely, Riley said, as students were given a chance to make something for kids who will likely have to spend the holidays at the hospital.

“This is the time of year we show we care by giving back to others,” Riley said. “Even if you don’t have something materialistic to give, you can give kindness.”

The bags included felt trees and snowmen that could be decorated with googly eyes, colored cotton balls and sticky lights and given as a gift. The second-graders had to take special precautions as they put them together, sanitizing their hands before they started work on the bags.

“It’s so they can’t get more sicker,” Isabella said.

“And we have germs,” Jasiyah said. “They can’t have Christmas with their family like us and wake up in their beds, and their family has to go to them at the hospital.

“They will still have Christmas, but they can’t do it at home,” Riley told her students.

Reach Gazette reporter Zachary Matson at 395-3120, zmatson@dailygazette.net or @zacharydmatson on Twitter.