While adults in the region have been collecting clothes, food and even firewood to send to people in New Jersey and New York devastated by Hurricane Sandy, a local fourth-grader wondered what could be done for victims that are his age.
So Michael Kocher, who turns 10 on Saturday, asked his parents, Michael and Michele, if he could collect stuffed animals and take them to children in the devastated region.
People are buying things for the parents, but nobody was talking about the children, said Michael, a Memorial Elementary School fourth-grader.
Michele Kocher at first thought her son was suggesting donating some of his own toys, but he had much grander plans. He wanted to organize a community collection and take a truckload or more to children in New York or New Jersey.
He said ‘some of the kids aren't going to have a Christmas.' It broke our hearts, his mom said. He's a really good kid.
The family approached Michael's school, which arranged for a public school in Staten Island to be the recipient. The Hanover Area district school helped spread the word with flyers sent home with students, but declined to allow its building to be used as a collection center.
When Michele told her boss at the day care center where she works about the project and the predicament, Zubeen Saeed stepped up.
Saeed, the owner of the Building Blocks Learning Centers in Plains Township, Dallas and Mountain Top, offered her facilities as drop-off points and informed the parents of the 350 children who are educated and cared for at the centers about the drive.
It was really a cute idea, Saeed said. I said ‘We'll help you.'
Michael said he hopes to collect over 99 stuffed animals for the children in New York.
The collection will take place through Nov. 26 and the items collected will be taken to Staten Island the next day. Michael will take the day off from school and join the delivery team.
Other area businesses, including Eyecare Specialists in Kingston, have heard about the drive and have started collecting items among staff members.
Michele Kocher said that in addition to new or gently used stuffed animals, winter hats and gloves will be accepted.
Saeed said she is working on getting a vehicle to transport the items to New York and said a staff member has a camper that has been offered if needed.
Four Building Blocks Learning Centers serve as drop-off centers for stuffed animals, toys, hats and gloves to be donated to families affected by Hurricane Sandy. They are located at:
• 1082 Rt. 315, Plaza 315, Plains Township
• 667 N. River St., Plains Township
• 1168 Memorial Highway, Twin Stacks Center, Dallas
• 502 S. Mountain Blvd., Mountain Top
Items will be accepted through Nov. 26.
Andrew Seder, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 829-7269.