The members of the Centennial School Board gave their unanimous support Tuesday night to a William Tennent senior who has started a charity effort to provide gift donations to young patients at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).
Matt Kelly began collecting Christmas toys for the kids three years ago and made it his annual mission to help them have a memorable holiday. In December 2011, Kelly gathered more than 300 toys and $500 from donations.
For the Upper Southampton resident, the mission is important enough to make it a year-round effort. Kelly has formed the New Hope Charity and aims to collect toys and gifts for CHOP kids on a regular basis.
"I want to put bins throughout the Bucks County community where people can drop off donations," said Kelly. "The toys go to the Child Life department of the hospital, which then distributes them among the children."
He knows from personal experience how important it is to feel at home at the hospital. Kelly was diagnosed at an early age with a rare blood disorder that caused him to make regular trips to CHOP.
"I went pretty much every three weeks," said Kelly. "If I started to look a little pale, we would pack up and head down there. It was a second home for us, and whenever I stayed, the staff always made sure I had toys and games to make me feel better. CHOP has done so much for me, this is my way to give back."
Kelly appeared before the school board Tuesday night with Tennent interim principal Dr. Barbara Burke-Stevenson to essentially get the blessing from the school directors to continue with his efforts and come back at a later date with a more complete plan to partner with the school district.
The directors gave the greenlight and also offered their assistance with Kelly's efforts. Michael Hartline volunteered to act as liaison with the charity and give guidance and advice. Kelly has a lawyer working pro-bono to help him form New Hope Charity into an official non-profit organization. Hartline told Kelly he will help find an accountant that can manage the books, while the rest of the board agreed to start looking at any extra grant money that can be donated to help Kelly's mission.
"It is wonderful thing that you are doing," said school director Jane Schrader-Lynch. "I am touched by your commitment to those kids."
The rest of the agenda items were passed unanimously, including payment of $1,000 for Centennial's share of a Bucks County-wide anti-bullying program organized by the Peace Center. Each school district in the county will provide money to help fund a call center for bullying victims to talk to counselors for support.