Stowers Elementary School students collected items for pediatric patients at Brandon Regional Hospital in December.

A group of local elementary school students made an impact on their peers in need last holiday season. The Stowers Elementary School Parent Teacher Association (PTA) organized a collection for toys and items for children at Brandon Regional Hospital, which was so successful that the hospital may be stocked for a year.

According to Stowers PTA Service Project Liaison Rachel Sahoo, the school came up with the idea to do a community services project instead of the traditional holiday shop.

“With the school year ending with e-learning last year, this never got to happen,” said Sahoo. “We decided to take it on this year, and it was challenging to come up with an idea that would be socially distant, without us permitted on campus and that would include both brick-and-mortar students and e-learners.”

After reaching out to several local hospitals and organizations, the group decided that members wanted the service project to benefit the pediatric unit of the Brandon Regional Hospital.

“Our reasoning for this is that it’s our local hospital, so our students are directly making an impact on their peers,” said Sahoo.

At the time of the fundraiser, due to COVID-19 restrictions, pediatric patients can only have one visitor.

“This is very taxing on the parents, patients and hospital employees,” said Sahoo. “The patients are bored and it’s very frustrating. They have a closet with activities, but the closet is very low on supplies.”

The group also learned that every pediatric patient gets their own pillowcase to take home with them.

“It helps them feel secure and comfortable,” said Sahoo. “Usually there are volunteers to sew pillowcases for them, but right now the volunteers are busy sewing masks. They are very low on pillowcases for the pediatric patients.”

Donations to the hospital need to be new because of sanitation.

“We decided to collect pillowcases, small toys, games, crafts, play dough, etc. to completely fill up their closets at the hospital,” said Sahoo.

The collection took off fast and donations exceeded Sahoo’s expectations.

“Every day the collection box has been filled and sometimes overfilled,” she said. “We never imagined that in these crazy times that this would be such a success, but we are so proud that our kids are directly helping other local kids.”

Stowers Elementary School can be reached at 657-7431.

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Kate Quesada
Assignment Editor Kate Quesada started working at the Osprey Observer in 2004 after graduating from the University of South Florida with a masters degree in Mass Communications. Since then, she has held various positions at the paper and has been working as the assignment editor since January 2020. She lives in Lithia with her husband Mike and sons Dylan and Max and stays active in the community on school PTA boards and volunteering with local organizations.