Don’t miss Orioles players, John Means & Paul Fry, as they guest host at our Brews and O’s event!

In today's Today section, a Sunday snapshot...


In today's Today section, a Sunday snapshot about 14-year-old Megan Leaf incorrectly states the county in which she lives. She is a resident of Harford County.

The Sun regrets the error.

Delivering packages full of love; Megan Leaf: Teen-ager's generosity has earned her a spot in Kid's Hall of Fame.

For sick kids dreaming of stuffed animals, crayons and Play-Doh, Megan Leaf is Santa Claus disguised as a 14-year-old girl.

Megan doles out "love boxes" full of toys to patients at Johns Hopkins Children's Center. Now her dedication to toys has earned her a place in the newly created Kid's Hall of Fame at the National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington.

The hall of fame was created to honor young people who are making a difference in the world. The five children include a 12-year-old who has waged a one-kid campaign to save a historic opera house in Fayetteville, Ark., and a 14-year-old who founded a camp for children with cancer.

Megan and the four other inductees were selected from 5,600 nominees from around the country.

Megan, who lives in Forest Hill in Prince George's County, camup with the idea of making love boxes four years ago when she was at Johns Hopkins for three months as part of treatment for a genetic disease, neurofibromatosis, that causes her to get tumors.

"I was bored," she said. "I thought, 'Wouldn't it be great if I had some toys of my own to play with that I don't have to turn back to the playroom.' "

So she created the love box. Since then, she has started buying stuffed animals in bulk, created a nonprofit organization, collected more than $3,000 in donations and spoken at many charity events.

And she still delivers 30 hand-decorated creations to the hospital every month. Each one is decorated with stickers, glitter and Magic Marker drawings written in her distinctively sloping hand, the result of a tumor that makes her blind in one eye.

Even when she had surgery to remove a brain tumor last year, she prepared a batch of boxes in advance.

"She knew she would be down and out for a couple days, but she wanted to make sure the kids had their boxes," said Debbie Bangeldorf, spokeswoman for the children's center.

She's only made one major improvement: "I've switched over to gift bags. But they're still called love boxes." Running the local United Way campaign is one of the biggest honors in the business community -- and, in years past, one of the toughest jobs as well. But James B. Sellinger, vice president of product marketing for IBM's Southern region, prefers to concentrate on the honor.

He has set a goal of $37 million, up from $35 million collected in last year's campaign. And he has hit the ground running, with $1.6 million pledged before the campaign began officially last month.

"This community needs the United Way," he says, sitting in an office with an enviable view of the Inner Harbor and, not incidentally, a phalanx of United Way flags waving in the breeze.

"The blemishes of the past," he adds, "are gone."

Contributions to United Way of Central Maryland, which collects and distributes money to selected charities, had sagged in the early 1990s. The local economy was weak and a national scandal had soured some contributors.

But the local campaign showed signs of a comeback last fall, and Mr. Sellinger believes he can build on that base.

A native of St. Louis, Mr. Sellinger and his family arrived in Baltimore three years ago. But he had a helpful relative, who happened to be president of Loyola College -- the Rev. Joseph A. Sellinger. That connection, along with his own activities in the community, helped to ease Mr. Sellinger into his new city.

He has been with IBM 17 years, ever since graduation from Notre Dame University, and active in United Way for much of that time. He designates part of his contribution to specific charities and the rest to the general fund.

Asked his sales pitch, he says: "Well, it's kind of hokey, but --

United Way works. It really works."

Laura Lippman

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad