To celebrate a love of reading, children with the We Cancerve Movement Inc. collected 111 new books and stuffed animals to match the main characters of each book and delivered them to area sick children March 2-4.
The initiative was organized to culminate on Dr. Seuss’ birthday weekend.
“Books & Buddies,” as it’s called, was created in 2014. With this year’s collection, 231 area children have received the sets. The initiative was started to help children undergoing chemotherapy treatments for cancer pass what can be hours in the clinic with a book and toy.
Last year, the youth-led nonprofit began donating the sets to elementary-age homeless children in transitional housing programs, an idea spearheaded by Harford Day School student Mario Nandalal, who sits on We Cancerve’s all-youth board of advisors.
Nandalal, a sixth-grader at Harford Day, led the initiative for a second year and has already delivered 20 to the Herman and Walter Samuelson Children’s Hospital at Sinai in Baltimore; 10 to the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air; and 36 to the Ronald McDonald House in Baltimore.
Fellow board member Ashlee Brockwell, a seventh-grader at Patterson Mill Middle School, delivered 10 to St. Agnes Hospital’s pediatric emergency room nurses. More sets are scheduled for delivery over the coming weeks. The project was supported by the Harford Day School community, Fountain Green Elementary School and Weichert Realtor.
“I really enjoyed being the project lead for Books and Buddies 2018. I liked planning the project knowing I was helping other kids, especially the ones in the hospitals. I got a lot of help from different groups like my school Harford Day, my Nana's office Weichert Realty and other people. It was really fun and we passed my goal of 100 books and buddies,” Nandalal said. “This project means a lot to me because learning and reading are really important. I know the kids will love reading their new books with their stuffed buddies.”
Service projects like “Books & Buddies” is one of the reasons We Cancerve was named a Maryland Black History Month Community Leaders Award winner in a ceremony Feb. 27 at the Banneker-Douglas Museum in Annapolis. The award recognizes Maryland-based, African American-founded organizations that provide volunteer service to improve Maryland communities for all. This is the first year of the program.
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According to the Governor's Office on Service and Volunteerism, more than 100 African American-founded organizations throughout Maryland were nominated. Ten winners were chosen and We Cancerve is the only organization not led by an adult.
We Cancerve Founder Grace Callwood, 13, whose parents are African-American and Caribbean, said she’s honored that her organization was recognized for this award.
“I’m excited that we won in the inaugural year of this award. It’s pretty awesome being part of something new. I’m grateful my organization was able to win this award as a youth-led organization. I hope this award will empower other youth throughout Maryland to accomplish whatever they want and know that their age can’t stop them,” Callwood, a seventh-grade student at Edgewood Middle School, said.
We Cancerve brings happiness to sick, foster and homeless children through a variety of programs and initiatives that can be supported by the community, including youth organizations. We Cancerve operates a free summer day camp at two Harford County transitional housing programs for homeless families and opened a full-service boutique to provide modern new and like-new clothes for work and worship for teen girls in foster care at a Bel Air group home. A full list of projects can be found on the group’s website.
Past board members who contributed to the group’s winning the award are: Marco Nandalal, a senior at the St. Paul School in Baltimore; Sahil Menon, a senior at the John Carroll School in Bel Air; Amol Menon, a sophomore at the Science and Math Academy at Aberdeen High School; and Erin Acerno, a seventh-grader at Southampton Middle School in Bel Air.
The 2018 board members include Nandalal, Brockwell and Callwood, plus Jadyn Betters, Bel Air Middle School; Samantha Bowling, William S. James Elementary School; Deetya Chhatwal, Homestead-Wakefield Elementary School; Charley Dallhoff, Jarrettsville Elementary School; Alexia Dialinos, Bel Air Middle School; Colin McAtee, Ring Factory Elementary School; Katelyn O’Connor, C. Milton Wright High School; Abigail Slovick, Notre Dame Prep; Elizabeth Wesdock, C. Milton Wright High School and Tiffany Williams, North Harford Middle School.
For more information about We Cancerve, email firstname.lastname@example.org.