Children's center creates comfort package to send to those affected by hurricane

by: JAIME VALDEZ - Nilani Maheswaran, 5, a kindergartner at the Children at Bright Horizons children's center, shows her finished card to her teacher. The children made cards and care packages for kids in the Northeast affected by the Sandy super storm.The Pacific Northwest was spared the wrath of Hurricane Sandy last month, but that didn’t stop a local children’s care center from devoting time and energy to help those suffering in the aftermath of the Northeast storm’s devastation.

When teachers and children at the Bright Horizons Children’s Learning Center at Beaverton heard homes of teachers and families at Bright Horizons centers in New York and New Jersey were damaged or completely lost to the storm, they wanted to help.

Staff at the Beaverton center, 15150 S.W. Koll Parkway, suite D, worked with other Northwest centers to “adopt” Bright Horizons facilities in the affected regions to help the staff and families rebuild their personal lives.

From a gift-card drive to wrapping care packages to creating cards for the children in the “adopted” centers, the older kids in the preschool and daycare facility have been involved in every step of the process, said Vicki Rice, assistant director of Bright Horizons’ Beaverton location.

“It’s more difficult for them to get their head around events that happen in another part of the world, so part of our job is to teach them what’s going on,” she noted. “They hear what we’re teaching them, and they understand kids like them are affected. Their job was to help make people happy and lift their spirits after what would likely be a scary time.”by:  JAIME VALDEZ - Caleb Jones, Nicholas Balogh, Nilani Maheswaran and Giselle Ditchfield, all 5, make cards to cheer up children in New Jersey.

With financial contributions and assistance from parents and staff, the center was abuzz for the past couple weeks with children creating cards to send to kids in the “adopted” centers and preparing a large care package to ship across the country. The Beaverton center, which cares for around 150 children, adopted Bright Horizons in Wall, N.J., as its beneficiary.

“We adopted a center there that’s about 2 miles from the coast, so they were hit pretty hard,” Rice said. “They were closed down for a number of days. There were stories of teachers who were not able to stay in their own homes who came to work when they could. Luckily their particular center didn’t receive damage, but were out of power that long. All the families are affected by that.”

Bright Horizons’ Northwest region division put out the word to centers if they wanted to adopt a Northeast facility in need. The Beaverton center’s staff gathered Target, Walmart and Starbucks gift cards to add to the package, while parents of the center’s children contributed various items. Children made heartfelt cards, captioned pictures and posters to send to the less fortunate teachers and youngsters near the Atlantic Ocean.

“The care package was for the teachers, to lift their spirits and let them know we were thinking of them,” Rice said. “We included Oregon coffees, chocolates, relaxation stuff for teachers to help make them happy.

“On one set of cards that went in the box, teachers had written down some of the (children’s) words,” she added. “One comment was ‘I hope you don’t have any more stormy feelings.’ It was cute.”

The contributions from the center’s 4-year-olds were particularly touching.

“Each one had something to say about what the picture meant. Some said ‘I love you,’ or ‘I hope this picture makes you happy.’ ”

One care package was shipped the week before Thanksgiving with pictures and other items still being prepared to send out.

Lynndi Falotico, director of Bright Horizons of Beaverton for 11 years, said she was driven to participate after talking with Bonnie Landron, director of the Wall, N.J.-based Bright Horizons.

“She said she was completely overwhelmed and delighted to have a center from across the United States do this,” Falotico said. “They’ve all had someone dear to them lose a home. They’re all safe and trying to rebuild.

“She said just to have someone care that much, to reach out and not know them” was reassuring, she added. “The pictures were one of the best things. (Bonnie) said they framed them and put them up in the hallway to show that children across the United States took the time to tell them they care about them in Wall, New Jersey.”

In addition to more recent financial contributions from parents and staff, funding for the packages included $151 the Bright Horizons children raised in a bake sale earlier this fall.

“We knew it would be helping the community, but the adopt-a-center idea happened to have good timing, so we used the funding for that,” Falotico said.

While it’s better to have no weather-related tragedy at all, incidents like “super storm Sandy” usually provide valuable lessons, particularly for children.

“It’s good for them to understand and do something significant to help somebody else in their lives by doing things like the cards and bake sale,” she said. “With the parents’ perspective, it brings it down to (the children’s) level.

“I hope it will stay with them.”

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