State College Girls' Lacrosse Team Successful with Children's Project –

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THIS IS the second time the Lady Little Lions have picked the Jared Box Project as their community project; other recipients of the Lady Little Lions’ volunteer efforts in the past have included the HEADstrong Foundation and the One Mile Breast Cancer Awareness Run.
When the State College Area High School girls’ lacrosse team first decided to participate in the Jared Box Project as their community project, little did the Lady Little Lions know that one of their own had benefited from the program.
“I learned about the Jared Box charity in more detail this past season from our head coach, Tara Hohenshelt. She is a wonderful mother to three amazing kids,” Lady Little Lion senior Nicole Zeiler said.
“She connected personally with Jared Boxes. She shared her feeling of gratitude and relief after receiving one in the ER — just knowing that her kids were also going to feel at ease.”
The Lady Little Lions have become so in tune with filling Jared Boxes that they actually did it twice during their recently completed season.
“I think this is a very positive program due to it wanting to help and make the kids’ time in the hospital more enjoyable. It’s also positive because it was made to honor Jared and the community,” State College lacrosse senior Anna Collins said.
“We really bonded as a team, and I think it gave everyone the perspective on how we can help the community and the people around us.”
The Jared Box Project now is in its 20th year. Based in Port Matilda, the idea came from the experiences of Jared McMullen and his family.
In 1999, Centre County 5-year-old Jared was diagnosed with incurable brainstem cancer.
Jared always took a backpack filled with toys and games to his hospital exams and appointments, and, according to the charity’s website, he one day noticed his fellow young patients sitting around with nothing to do but sit and wait because they hadn’t done the same.
He asked his parents why the other kids didn’t bring along something with which to play, and the seeds for the Jared Box Project were planted.
“It eases them from just “Ooo, I’m just sitting here. I’m anxious,” and it gives them something to do,” said Collins’ mother, Barbie, a member of the State College girls’ lacrosse booster club that helped the Lady Little Lion players come up with the idea to use their team community project to benefit the local aid organization.
Jared Boxes are shoebox-sized plastic totes — the kind you can buy at Walmart or Target — filled with toys and activities for children to keep them occupied while they’re in the hospital, either for extended stays or just sitting in the waiting room for a check-up.
After purchasing enough items to fill their tote, the Lady Little Lions decorated them and then designated whether they were for a little boy or girl and the approximate age of the intended recipient. Then they were passed along to a Project member, who took them to Mount Nittany Medical Center, now one of nearly 400 hospitals that partner with the charity.
“Some things that we included in the Jared box were Play-Doh, smaller stuffed animals, and a lot of coloring books and things they could in their free time,” Anna Collins said.
Each year, the State College girls’ lacrosse players pick a nonprofit to benefit from their team project.
“When I found out that we were doing Jared Boxes again this year I got really excited because I enjoyed doing it my sophomore year,” Anna Collins said.
The project doesn’t just benefit kids with terminal illnesses. Jared Boxes can be given to the families of children in the hospital for any reason. That’s how Hohenshelt became familiar with them.
“Her children have been to the emergency room because they’re playful and energetic. While they were in the emergency room they received these boxes,” Barbie Collins said.
This year’s team had so much fun and success filling their Jared Boxes in the middle of the season that they had items left over and decided to put together a second batch at the end of the year.
“There aren’t enough words to describe the positivity,” Zeiler said.
“We are such a close-knit group of young leaders who all strive to build one another up and achieve goals both collectively and individually.
“I was so excited to share this experience with my teammates and be able to give back to our community in such a loving and supportive way.”
Zeiler, who put stuffed animals and finger puppets in her Jared Boxes, said she found the entire experience to be rewarding.
“I gained a sense of pride knowing that I would be helping a family during a likely stressful visit to the ER. I also gained hope that this charity will continue on in time and reach kids all over the world,” Zeiler said, “maybe even my own, one day.”
This story appears in the June 24-30 edition of The Centre County Gazette.
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