Cancer survivors lead Greenville elementary school’s donation drive

By Curtis Wildfong • Last Updated 10:22 am on Thursday, October 31, 2013

Baldwin Heights Elementary School students and cancer survivors, from left, Bree Towne, Madison Homich and Blake Hulliberger display some of the prizes that will be available to children at DeVos Children’s Hospital. The items are given to children at the hospital after any type of “poke” they receive. — Daily News/Curtis Wildfong

GREENVILLE — As young cancer survivors themselves, Baldwin Heights Elementary students Bree Town, Madison Homich and Blake Hulliberger know all too well the pains of pricks and pokes from doctors.

That is why they, along with all the other students of the Greenville elementary school, have taken it upon themselves to help stock full buckets of items to donate to the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids for use as “poke prizes.” Children at the hospital who need a “poke” for whatever reason get to chose a prize out of the items, which range from school supplies such as pens, markers and crayons, to coloring books and posters.

“I think it makes the kids feel really happy when they get a prize after a poke,” said Bree, who was diagnosed last year with acute myeloid leukemia, a cancer that attacks the myeloid line of blood and is usually found in adults. She spent six months in the hospital undergoing chemotherapy.

The school has used its book fair as a means to adding to the “poke prize” box collection. Students have purchased books at the fair and donated them to the cause while others have given their money they saved.

One student came to the school’s media center asking how much it would cost to buy a book for the donation box, said Kathy Maguire, media assistant at Baldwin Heights. When the student found out, she pulled out the $7 from her piggy bank and donated it.

“I think people rally around a give-back cause,” Maguire said. “This is really a giving community.”

More than $500 in donations have already been given to the poke prize box, with Friday serving as the final day of the fair.

“I think it’s a really good idea because I think the kids need the experience and know what the kids at the hospital go though,” said Madison, who at 16 months was diagnosed with leukemia. After five years of treatment, she has been cancer free for four years.

“I think we should do it every year,” said Blake, who is currently in remission after he relapsed in 2010. He was diagnosed in 2008 with leukemia and said it helps make the pokes easier when the children get a prize afterward.

The Greenville wrestling team is lending a hand in the project and will have collection boxes at its meets this season. Maguire said items accepted include books, sticker books, toy cars, nail polish, posters, food coupons or really anything the children can play with or decorate their rooms with.

“Helen DeVos said kids need to laugh,” she said.

To help with that, students at Baldwin Heights also wrote more than 400 cards to children who have extended stays at the hospital.

“The kids wrote jokes and things in their cards,” Maguire said. “The cards are just darling that they’re making.”

Anyone who wishes to donate a book or money can stop in at the fair between 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Friday.

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