By Hallie Gordon
When you think of the holiday season, what comes to mind? Possibly a gift for every night of Hanukkah, or a huge Christmas tree surrounded by countless presents. For many, the holiday season is one of the greatest times of the year spent with friends and family; however, this time of year can unfortunately elicit unhappy times for those who aren’t as fortunate. BHHS’ Mentor Program, however, has allowed for the holidays to be much brighter for the people living in the Ronald McDonald house – a place where families with sick children can go to receive comfort, care and support. Today, there are more than 365 Ronald McDonald homes in over 64 regions and countries.
The mentor program has been working with the Ronald McDonald house for six years now to donate gifts to the families residing in the home during the holidays. Byram Hills has chosen the Ronald McDonald house to donate gifts to because many of Byram’s faculty members have a personal connection or tie to the house. Mr. Andriello, the head of the mentor program, states, “[The house] has had an impact [many] of the mentor teachers, and when we had an idea of doing a grade-wide service project it seemed like the best place to focus our energy.”
The way it works is that each Senior mentor pair is assigned to a family, for whom they buy gifts. Each mentor class, filled with freshmen, donates money to help purchase these gifts. Once the freshmen donate the money, all of the senior mentors go together to Target and purchase gifts for the children. Mentor Elyse Kanner claimed that “picking out the gifts was so much fun, especially knowing they would bring smiles to the faces of the families.”
After purchasing the gifts, the mentors bring the gifts to school for each class to wrap. Freshman Sydney Levy wrapped presents, and decorated a glass cup for children in the hospital. She feels that “it was such a great opportunity to be able to wrap the presents for the kids.” She added, “I felt amazing knowing that I was doing something that would make someone’s holidays happier.” The freshmen were all very excited to be able to make a change in the lives of the families at the Ronald McDonald House.
Once all of the gifts were wrapped, the senior mentors delivered them to the house. Upon arriving, the mentors laid the gifts under a Christmas tree. As Mr. Andriello claimed, “In many ways the 9th grade serves as the ‘Santa Claus’ of the house.” After being able to see the connection between the mentor program and these families, Elyse Kanner felt that it was extremely inspiring. “The ability of the mentors and Freshman class to have impacted the holidays for these families is remarkable.”
The families in the house are always appreciative for all of the gifts. And in fact, the mentors really enjoyed their time at the Ronald McDonald House, and felt that their work was not nearly done… thus, in February, the mentors will return to the house to cook a dinner for the families. Hopefully this mentor tradition will continue for years to come, as it has the ability to bring smiles to many faces in our community!