Isle of Wight students share the Christmas spirit

Published 10:45 pm Friday, December 7, 2012

Alex Fronfelter, Dianne Davis, Jackson Goodman, Shannon Griffin and Colton Laughinghouse, student members of the Isle of Wight Academy Key Club, show some of the gifts community members have donated toward the club’s Christmas community service efforts.

Christmas was Melanie Hatfield’s favorite time of year. The Isle of Wight Academy preschooler was only 4 when she lost her battle with leukemia about five years ago.

To keep her memory alive, the Hatfield family started a campaign to make sure patients at the Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters, which treated Melanie, and their families don’t go without when Dec. 25 rolls around.

Now, the academy’s Key Club, which has about 70 members from freshmen through seniors, has taken on the mission of bolstering the family’s efforts.

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“They wanted to find something to do to give back and to honor the memory of their daughter,” club sponsor Ben Brown, a social studies teacher at the academy, said of the Hatfield family’s efforts.

“They decided to start collecting money to give gift cards, stuffed animals and coloring books to families of the children with terminal diseases.”

The club had already been raising money while Melanie was alive to defray the cost of her medical care, Brown said.

“We were looking for a project to do so we partnered with (Melanie’s mother) Pam,” he continued. “We turn a lot of stuff over to her and she gives it to CHKD.

“Christmas was always her (Melanie’s) favorite time of the year. She loved opening her stocking Christmas morning.”

The club is accepting donations from community members; items can be placed under the tree inside the main office at 17111 Courthouse Highway, Isle of Wight.

Meanwhile, the club is involved in two other Christmas projects, including one known as the Angel Tree.

Students collect gifts and raise money to buy gifts for 75 residents at Windsor’s Consulate Nursing Home, “adopting” an angel from the tree in return, Brown said.

For the third project, students adopt a family to support during Christmas through the Smithfield Cares program, run by the Smithfield-Luter Foundation, a legacy of the Luter family’s ham empire.

“They get information from social services about families that have children that are needy,” Brown said.

The academy has adopted four families this year. The social services coordinator provides a list of items that club members purchase then deliver to families the week before Christmas, Brown said.

Teaching its student members the value of community service is the “driving force” behind the Key Club, Brown said.

“It’s community service and getting them to realize that anybody can write a check or give a dollar, but the face-to-face contact is important,” he said.

Academy Director of Development Mary-Margaret Wells said that its student members themselves decide which projects the club takes on. The club runs various other projects during the year.