Andi Jackson’s 16th birthday this year meant lots and lots of gifts — for some children in the small town of Thornton.
That’s because Jackson, who turned 16 on March 13, decided she didn’t need any birthday gifts this year and asked family and friends who wanted to give her something to instead donate a piece of playground equipment for children attending New Hope Elementary School, a K-8 school in Thornton, located in San Joaquin County.
Jackson had heard from family friend and teacher Karin DeVarennes that New Hope had few of the things Davis kids take for granted at school: things like jump ropes, basketballs and footballs.
The school’s limited funding, Jackson said, meant that after buying necessities like textbooks and other basics, there wasn’t anything left over for playground equipment. Even physical education teachers had to be cut, she said.
So the Davis High School sophomore decided to change that.
She told family and friends that she planned to collect such items in lieu of birthday gifts
“The school told us what they needed,” Jackson said, “and specified what they had enough of, and we went off that list.”
Donations came in from near and far — family members from as far away as Canada sent money, while local friends and family donated both money and equipment. Davis restaurant Tres Hermanas donated $100 to put toward items as well.
“The response was really good,” Jackson said. “They were all really supportive and they all really wanted to help out.”
And so they did. By the time Jackson was ready to deliver everything to Thornton on her birthday, there were piles and piles of stuff, including 38 Hula Hoops, 32 jump ropes, 25 bouncy balls, 22 soccer balls, 18 basketballs, 16 footballs, 10 Frisbees and five volleyballs.
She and her mom Selene loaded up the car and headed to Thornton on her sweet 16th.
“We were greeted by the principal (Joanne Oien), who gave us a tour of the school,” Jackson recalled. “The school is pretty small, but really nice. They have a lot of room, big fields and nice playgrounds.”
And now, plenty of equipment to use out there.
They could use more, though, so Jackson is still collecting if anyone wishes to donate. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jackson said she is thrilled with how it all turned out and hopes to do something like that again in the future. She encourages other youths to do the same.
“It’s definitely a project that takes time and effort,” she said, “but I really hope other people realize that when you do one thing, so many others can join in and help out.”
And that, in turn, can make a big difference.
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at email@example.com or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy