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Hempfield student supports Kids 4 Kids

| Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013, 9:27 p.m.
Alex Roskosh, 14, of Hempfield, stands for a portrait outside his old school, West Point Elementary, School, with a car full of toys and school supplies to be donated to Kids 4 Kids on Jan. 2. Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review

Alex Roskosh quietly collects money and art supplies throughout the year so that children in foster homes can have their very own coloring books and crayons.

The eighth-grader at Wendover Middle School has been doing this work without fanfare for five years now, said West Point Elementary School Principal Audrey Dell.

It began when Dell was Roskosh's teacher in third grade. She asked the kids to bring school supplies for those without any, instead of bringing her gifts.

She explained that the supplies would go to Kids 4 Kids, a charity started 10 years ago by a former foster child who remembers longing to own a coloring book.

“Alex has made such a difference in what Kids 4 Kids could do,” said Dell, who was also his fifth-grade teacher. “He has collected carloads of supplies and more than $1,000 in just the last few years.”

Kids 4 Kids provided 300 stockings this Christmas to give school supplies to foster children in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties.

“I just thought of how fortunate we really are, and that we should help those who have less,” said Alex, the son of Valerie and Bob Roskosh and the brother of Andy, a junior at Hempfield Area High School.

During the holiday break, Alex and his mother went to his old elementary school to drop off a carload of supplies to be distributed. The items included stuffed animals, construction paper and writing tablets.

“I do plan on continuing to do this, probably through high school,” Alex said.

He said that he asks friends and relatives to donate money before going on a shopping trip.

“It's kind of nice to get the word out. Every year the bar goes higher,” Alex said. “The first year we filled two boxes. This year we have a carload full.”

Now, people start in May by mailing or dropping off donations at the Roskosh home. They come from as far away as Port Richie, Fla.

Valerie Roskosh said they are thankful for all the donors.

“It was overwhelming for Alex that first year, and it felt so good he wanted to keep doing it,” she said. “I owe it to Mrs. Dell. She really touched my son. I am so proud of him. Last year he spoke at a Kiwanis meeting and they donated $200.

“One child can make a difference,” Valerie Roskosh said.

Madison “Maddie” Long, who started Kids 4 Kids, is a senior at Belle Vernon Area who has just been accepted at Penn State University. She wants to become a physician's assistant.

Long was adopted when she was 6 years old, along with her sister, Marissa, now an eighth-grader.

“Being a foster child wasn't easy or pleasant, and I wanted to make their lives just a little easier at Christmas,” Long said. “After talking to my parents, I thought that the best way to do that was to give them things to do that would help them pass the time. Coloring books and crayons for younger kids and journals and gel pens for older kids were some of the things I thought would help. These were things they could call their own and were easily taken from place to place.”

Long said she remembers being contacted by Dell about Alex's interest.

“Kid 4 Kids has become an annual event and Alex and his contributions have become part of what makes it so successful,” Long said. “I couldn't believe a student from Hempfield had taken such an active interest in a project that I had started.”

Her mother, Kim Long, a teacher in Ringgold School District, has supported her daughter's charity that she began in second grade.

“Alex does a lot of background work,” Kim Long said. “He is such a good kid, and these things he's doing will encourage other kids.”

Maddie Long said she would like to convey that Kids 4 Kids could never have continued without the help from family, friends and Alex.

“It's important to look beyond yourself and work towards making a positive impact,” she said in an email.

“Even though I'll be away at Penn State, Kids 4 Kids will continue,” Long said. “Marissa will be working from home, and I plan to work from college.”

Rose Domenick is a freelance writer.