Second grader's service project spreads warmth

December 22, 2020

Northern Chautauqua Catholic School second grader Halie Troche has always been a “news watcher,” according to her mom. After seeing a local news story about how nursing home visits would be limited during the holidays, Halie grew concerned. “They’re not going to have a Santa,” she told her parents, Carlos and Julie Troche.

Halie’s mom, Julie, explained, “We talked about the fact that people who are in nursing homes or being hospitalized won’t be able to be home for Christmas or even have visitors. She found that really sad and decided she wanted to help!”

Halie, herself, once stayed overnight at John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital to have her tonsils removed, and she recalled receiving a small stuffed animal while she was there. Julie said, “I explained that that stuffed bear was donated to the hospital, so she decided to collect blankets to give to those who wouldn’t be home for Christmas.”

With her own money, Halie purchased five blankets and reached out to family members for donations, too. Julie, who is a teacher at Dunkirk Middle School, emailed her coworkers seeking blankets or donations. “We decided to post Halie’s project on Facebook, so she staged the photo I took and created the wording,” Julie said. Blankets and cash donations came in from friends and family as far away as North Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

Halie’s classmates in Ms. Stephanie Kraengel’s second grade class also joined her in her efforts to collect blankets. In just a few weeks, Halie’s collection grew from her original purchase of five blankets to over 100 blankets! Julie said, “The conversations that came out of this project were amazing. By collecting blankets of different sizes, we talked about how her project was helping each generation, from infants to the elderly.”

In total, Halie’s project involved blanket or cash donations from 68 people, for a total of 125 blankets. She delivered 75 blankets to Chautauqua Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, 32 blankets to Oishei Children’s Hospital, 10 blankets to Dunkirk Rehabilitation and Nursing Center and eight blankets to DaVita Dunkirk Dialysis.

“One of the most touching moments was when we delivered blankets to the Dunkirk Rehabilitation and Nursing Center,” said Julie. “We joined a group out Christmas caroling one Saturday while we were out delivering blankets. The residents were right at the windows where we could see them, and it was a really special moment.”

Halie and her family wish to thank her classmates and the community for their support and donations. “We appreciate the donations,” said Julie, “but we also appreciate the life lesson of giving and taking care of those in need.”

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