Three TJ students reach out to community to help those in need |
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Maddie Sneddon collected more than 400 books from the Thomas Jefferson community to donate to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Taylor Myers raised nearly enough money to donate two wagons to the hospital to allow little children to get out of their rooms and explore the hallways while getting treatment.

Alaina Mulvihill raised more than $33,000 in seven weeks for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society through fundraisers and knocking on the doors of businesses across Pittsburgh.

All three Thomas Jefferson High School students had different personal motivations for launching their separate projects, but all simply wanted to give back and help those in need.

“Even though it’s a small thing, like just donating a few books or movies around the house, it makes a big difference to these kids who don’t really have a whole lot during their time in the hospital,” said Sneddon, 17, a junior at TJ.

Sneddon is a member of TJ’s Interact Club. This year, she wanted to take initiative and start a project herself that would encompass the whole school.

She made posters and hung them throughout the school and decorated donation boxes for the books. The book drive, for Children’s Hospital’s Adopt-A-Book project, was featured on the school’s morning announcements.

Students donated. Teachers had a dress down day where they donated a book in exchange for donning casual dress at school. Parents even dropped off books at the school.

“It was really far-reaching,” Sneddon said.

The collection, which took place throughout February, was so successful, Sneddon plans to make it an annual event and work with other schools in the district to make it a West Jefferson Hills-wide event.

“I hope it takes their mind off of being in the hospital and gives them some entertainment and something to enjoy and just brightens their day,” she said of the books.

For Myers, 18, a TJ senior, her project was inspired by her baton coach, Kairy Little, whose son, Garrett, is undergoing treatment for leukemia.

Her coach mentioned the wagons at Children’s Hospital in the hematology/oncology department, where kids can leave their room whenever they’re having treatment. Their parents pull them around in the wagons, which are decked out with lions and whales on the sides. The back pole holds their IVs.

But the hospital needs more wagons, Myers’ coach told her.

Myers worked with a classmate to create a video that has been shared across social media about her project to raise funds to buy another wagon for Children’s Hospital.

She also began collecting toys for the Treasure Chest at the hospital.

She launched the fundraiser in December at the TJ band and choir concert with a table at the door. Since then, people have been mailing her checks and dropping toys off at her door.

She’s raised almost $2,000 — enough to buy two wagons for the hospital — and collected more than 40 toys.

“I just want to give back to those that don’t know what it’s like (not) to be sick and to be in the hospital,” she said. “I want to give them a wagon so that they can have at least something they can look forward to.”

Mulvihill, 17, a TJ junior, attended an event last year for a family friend raising money for the Student of the Year outreach for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia Chapter.

She was “intrigued and inspired” by the girl’s efforts — so much so, she decided to go out for the Student of the Year campaign for 2019.

She set a goal of $20,000 and hosted several fundraisers, including an event at Mulligan’s Sports Bar and Grill in West Mifflin that raised $8,515 through auctions.

She went from business to business in the South Side, Strip District and Station Square asking for donations.

Mulvihill had a ticker set up on her email and every time she opened it to see another donation, it was like Christmas, she said.

“From $10 to $500, it was just amazing seeing all of these donations going in,” she said.

In seven weeks, she and her team of 10 raised $33,174.

There were 13 candidates raising money for the local chapter that brought in a total of $152,000.

“I raised 20 percent of that,” Mulvihill said. “I’ve grown so much, learning how to talk to strangers and present what I’m passionate about.”

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