“Love in a Box” Travels from Larchmont to Louisiana
by Joan R. Simon, photos by Evy Ruggeri
(February 8, 2006) Elementary students from Murray, Central and Mamaroneck Avenue schools have been busily decorating and filling special boxes with school and other useful supplies for children displaced from their homes by Hurricane Katrina. On Friday, Feb. 10th all 1200 of these boxes will be arriving in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where children from New Orleans are temporarily attending school.
The boxes are part of “Love in a Box 2006” (www.loveinabox.org), the brainchild of Linda Ryan of Larchmont and Cari O’Leary of Rye Neck, both parents of young children. Together they brought their idea to the elementary schools in Mamaroneck and Rye Neck as “a way to allow our children to participate in caring for others who have been affected by this disaster,” said Ms. O’Leary. The students creatively hand-decorated shoeboxes of every shape and size and filled them with small items, such as notepads, books, playing cards, pens, art supplies, puzzles and stickers. Each one contains a hand-written note to a boy or girl aged 2 - 11 that says something like, “I know New York is a long way from Louisiana, but I wanted you to know someone cares.”
Many of the students included a photo and a stamped return envelope addressed to their school in case a child wanted to reply. At Mamaroneck Avenue School the student council organized the project and disseminated it to all the classes in the school. They independently ran a bake sale so that they could purchase a set of brand new classroom story books to include with the shipment.
“Love in a Box” is part of Random Acts of Kindness Week, Feb. 13 – 17, and the boxes are expected to be handed out in three Baton Rouge elementary schools on Monday Feb. 13. “When you see a child actually make the box himself and listen as he muses about who will receive it and how it might make him or her feel, you know that this project is a success,” explained Ms. Ryan, whose son is in second grade at Murray. “Now we just cannot wait for the children of New Orleans to open one of these and know that some other child sent them this just because they care!”
The students aren’t the only ones getting into the act: teachers made boxes for teachers, principals for principals and secretaries for secretaries. “It's amazing how many different creative approaches were taken in making this project a success,” Ms. Ryan said. The boxes are being transported by Collins Brothers Moving Corporation of Larchmont, with assistance from the program’s additional private funding. Other schools in Westchester that are participating in the program are Daniel Warren (where Ms. O'Leary's twin boys attend kindergarten) and F.E. Bellows in Rye Neck and Good Counsel in White Plains.
Ms. Ryan and Ms. O’Leary will be traveling to Baton Rouge this weekend to see “what happened to the boxes.” They plan to bring back photos and a report on their experiences to share with the elementary students here who worked on the project.