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Hunt Valley Embarks on Jared Box Project

At Hunt Valley Elementary, the students were surprised when their community event called "The Jared Box" got tremendous support and tripled in size. Despite the snow distractions of January, the students collected enough school supplies and keepsakes to make 152 of the boxes instead of their initial goal of 50.

"We had so many boxes, at first we didn't think we were going to get much," said Caroline Chabolla, 11.

According literature from The Jared Box Program, the plastic boxes are "filled with small gifts, toys, cards, and games," designed "to lift the spirits of chronically ill children." Based in Boalsburg, Penn., The Jared Box Program was named after a chronically ill 5-year-old named Jared who carried a backpack full of toys and games to every doctor's appointment. When he died, the idea was derived from that. Cindy Kolarik founded the program two years ago. There have been 3,500 made so far, in 10 states mostly on the Eastern Seaboard and Ohio.

"It's only been in existence for two years but the word has spread," she said.

A PARENT from the Springfield community got the idea while visiting her child at Penn State University and brought it back to Hunt Valley.

Hunt Valley fourth grader, Stephen Dillon, 9, remembered his overstuffed box, filled to the brim.

"Some of them, we had to tape down," he said.

Stephen is the Student Council Association treasurer and Caroline is the historian. Other SCA members, Andre DuPress, president; Ebony Patrick, vice president; and Paige Kvartunas, secretary, were driving forces behind the project. Fifth grade teacher Debbie Marzluff worked with the students. They solicited contributions from the whole school and community. They also collected $190, which they used to purchase additional supplies.

"Students tended to bring what they wanted, from their age. Some people made donations," Marzluff said.

Stephen helped pick out the materials as well.

"I helped my mom go shopping for things," he said.

"Me and Paige went on the announcements," Caroline added.

Paige and Caroline accompanied Marzluff to Inova Fairfax where they donated the boxes. Although the students didn't have contact with the patients, Paige did see one scene that she will remember from the experience.

"We saw one kid walking down the hall. You really got to see what it's like, especially from going there," she said.

"All the hospitals have been very receptive," Kolarik said.

After hearing about the boxes last year, Marzluff contacted Cindy Kolarik in Pennsylvania. Marzluff received a package on Jan. 22 and finished collecting the materials on February 7. Since it was around Valentines Day, the students included a heart in each box.