Valentine’s Day Hope Chests

In my first year of teaching I instituted my favorite tradition of the school year- Valentine’s Day Hope Chests.  I first found out about “Holiday Hope Chests” on Beth Newingham’s Scholastic website. Each chest  is actually a decorated shoe box, filled with small toys, games,  and art supplies chosen especially for a girl or boy of a certain age. My students also make Valentines to enclose in each chest. The chest gives the receiving child a “treasure chest” in which to keep the items together. We donate our hope chests to a local children’s hospital, The Institute for Children with Cancer and Blood Disorders at Robert Wood Johnson.  

As a student at Rutgers, I participated in the Dance Marathon, a 36 hour event that raised money for the Institute.  Meeting the children at the Institute was a life-changing event and I wanted to stay involved when I started teaching.  The Hope Chests were a perfect way to do this.  During my first year of teaching I spoke with one of the child-life specialists at the Institute.  I explained to her what I wanted to do and she was thrilled.  We decided to donate the boxes for Valentine’s Day because it was a holiday that was frequently ignored when other people made donations to the hospital (unlike Christmas and Hanukkah, for example).

Our hope chests begin with a letter we send home to all 100 of our students and their parents.  Each student is asked to bring in a few items (new, unused) that will fit in the shoe boxes.  They are also asked to donate empty shoe boxes.  For two weeks we collect the toys, games, books, art supplies, and boxes.  This past Friday, we spent the morning organizing and decorating!

The students worked in groups, picking out items to fill their boxes with.  After filling the box and decorating it, they labeled the bottom- for example, “Girl 10-12” or “Boy 6-8”.  They also made valentines to place in each box.   

Watching the students carefully put the boxes together is a wonderful feeling.  They are so careful and selective, making sure each box is perfect.  They painstakingly decorate the inside and outside, making the hope chests absolutely perfect.  Their valentines were colored, decorated, and signed with love and care.  It was a beautiful sight and a wonderful morning.  

Immediately after-school, one of my teammates and I drove the Hope Chests to the Institute.  This year, we donated almost 60 Hope Chests, which were to be given out at the hospital’s Valentine’s Day party on Saturday.  🙂