Almost since we started walking, it has been a family tradition for us to deliver Christmas presents to the Shriners Children’s Hospital during the holidays. During a normal annual toy drop off when they were in 4th grade, we began asking questions about what the children in the hospital did during other times of the year in the car ride home. This led to us inquiring about Valentines Day and how much we love this special holiday where we can send grams and share special cards with our friends. One of our fondest school memories is the experience of exchanging gifts and valentines with our classmates and friends on Valentine’s Day. We couldn’t imagine other children missing this experience because they were in a hospital and not able to attend school. It was during this car ride home that we decided that they were going to talk to our principal, Mr. Donovan, at Pleasant Grove Elementary School, to see if he would support our idea of a school wide collection of toys and handmade valentines. We set up a meeting with Mr. Donovan when we returned from the Christmas break and he loved our idea. We named the drive the “Gift of Love” because we wanted to share love and kindness to others in need and this is how it all started.
Over the next several years, the drive gained in success, with support from the local Girl Scouts Troops, The First Baptist Church of Elk Grove, along with other teachers from local schools that joined in supporting our drive. We collected so many new toys and handmade valentines that they were able to benefit not only The Shriners Children’s Hospital but also shared valentines with Sutter Pediatrics and the Sacramento Children’s Receive Home. Given the Hospitals restrictions of no glitter material on the Valentines, we delivered the non-qualifying valentines to the local Veteran’s Hospital and personally delivered the glitter Valentines to the sick Veterans at the Mather Field Location.
After we promoted from elementary school, we wasted no time getting permission from Katherine Albiani’s Middle School (KAMS) activities director, Donna McNeel, to continue the Gift of Love drive. Along with the other organizations support, KAMS is also participating in the drive now as well. It made us feel good to do something nice for others as well as encourage our friends to participate in something bigger than ourselves.
In 2016, given the continued success of the toys, handmade valentines and monetary donations received, we decided to take our drive to the next step (with the help of their parents) to create the Gift of Love Foundation, where we can better help local charities and also encourage other youths to participate in the spirit of giving back to others with the non-profit status. We found that people are more generous if they can receive a taxable donation.
Currently, we are attending Pleasant Grove High School and have already formed the Gift of Love Club to continue our desire to encourage philanthropy with the students at our High School.
To date, we have collected over 10,000 hand made valentines that have been distributed to local charities along with thousands of toys and monetary donations that have benefitted the Shriners Children’s Hospital as well as other local charities. It is our goal to continue to grow our donations and make a difference in our community.
We love getting others involved but most importantly enjoy putting a smile across someone’s face who otherwise didn’t expect it. It makes us feel good to do kind acts for others.
If you would like more information on our charity or how you can help, please email us.
Thanks for reading our story,
Sierra & Ashleigh
The Gift of Love Foundation