Middle schoolers reach out to sick children

Ten seventh-grade boys from a Raleigh middle school are helping make a difference for sick children - if only for a few moments.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Ten seventh-grade boys from a Raleigh middle school are helping make a difference for sick children – if only for a few moments.

The Moore Square Middle School students, participants in a Raleigh Police Department leadership program, collected coloring books, crayons, board games and children’s DVDs in an effort aimed at helping young people take their minds off being sick.

“They understood what it’s all about,” said officer Graham Witherspoon, who started the William Bunn Preparatory School leadership program. “They understand the standard we have at RPD to give back and to help.”

The school is named after William Bunn, a local elementary school student who became the police department’s first honorary police officer this year – weeks before he died after years of fighting cancer.

On Monday, loaded with hundreds of items, the 10 students visited the pediatric units at WakeMed and Rex Hospital in Raleigh, Duke University Hospital in Durham and UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill.

“It’s my first time doing this, and I thought it was pretty good to see all the smiles on the kids’ faces,” student Stephen Chambers said.

Parents’ faces lit up, too.

Laura Velazquez’s daughter, Yessenia, had unexpected complications from a recent appendectomy, extending her stay at WakeMed.

Velazquez said her daughter’s face changed completely when the coloring books arrived.

“Now, we’re asking for crayons, and she’s real happy,” she said. “I appreciate this. I saw a big difference in her.”

The boys chose the “coloring book” initiative earlier this year as the program’s first service project. They posted fliers around their school, asking for donations, and even organized a school dance with an admission fee of at least one coloring book.

Since early October, they gathered more than 1,500 coloring books and got refurbished computers for young patients to use while they are in the hospital.

The class has already started work on its second service project – collecting 5,000 children’s books for the Salvation Army to distribute to Wake County families this holiday season.

Witherspoon chose the boys for the program based on their goals to attend college.

Each Wednesday, they dress in their uniforms – a shirt, tie, sports coat and slacks – and meet to talk about what they should do to be successful in education and life.

Witherspoon calls it “a journey of education.”

“I don’t call it a program, because programs come and go,” he said. “A program has an end. Education doesn’t have an end. It never stops,” he said.


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