DOVER — Most school children wouldn’t consider a trip to the hospital as a highlight of their weeklong Easter break.
But Reagan and Payton Garnsey’s April 6 visit to A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children, bearing 50 “Buckets of Love,” was different even for the Holy Cross School students. This time, they were able to present some of the buckets in person. Given privacy guidelines, they were only able to see children go through the gift buckets through video clips, if the children’s families approved.
“We got to experience the meaning of all of this,” said first-grader Payton. “It was a crazy good feeling.”
Reagan, a fifth-grader, considered that visit one of the two high points for the program they started last June. The other came March 12, when they were honored at a New York City dinner with a National Jefferson LEAD360 Award.
Guidelines for the award call for young people 5 to 25 to suggest ways to solve problems they have identified. Five finalists are chosen each year, and the winner is decided by an online vote.
While the precocious Garnsey sisters were happy to be honored, they were elated since the Jefferson Awards Foundation now is pushing the project to youth across the country through the website, http://lead360.jeffersonawards.org/. That means the Buckets of Love program the girls started last June now will expand far beyond the more than 200 buckets they have given out thus far.
“Our goal for 2018 is to donate a bucket in every state,” Reagan said of the program’s expansion.
“It felt like a huge accomplishment for me,” Reagan said of LEAD360 recognition. “That’s not the reason we do it — we do it to help the kids — but I would never have imagined anything like this to happen.”
Helping others comes as no surprise to Linda Pollitt, Holy Cross principal. She recalled that Reagan was among the organizers of a Knitting Club at the school while in second grade, a program in which both girls are now involved. They also man an Alex’s Lemonade Stand each June, raising money for children’s cancer research.
“They work hard, starting from the physical scrubbing of large plastic [icing] buckets donated by the local Sam’s Club bakery down to the collection and purchasing of toys and school supplies from area businesses,” Pollitt wrote in the Holy Cross Parish bulletin.
Reagan and Payton do much of the work themselves but rely on others as well. One obvious area where they need help is what to get for boys. “The only things I can think of is Superman and cars,” Payton said.
For girls, Reagan said, “We think, if I were in that scenario, what would I want?”
Eight friends joined Reagan and Payton on Tuesday of Easter Break to help fill 90 buckets. They and their mother, Angela, took 40 of those to the Nemours Children’s Health System clinic in Seaford and the remaining 50 to A.I. DuPont.
Doctors at DuPont surprised them, asking if they would like to give some of the buckets directly to patients, with family approval.
Payton fondly remembers a 14-month-old girl to whom she gave a bucket that included a Barbie doll and stuffed animals. Reagan especially recalled a 10-year-old girl who “was close to my age — I just turned 11.”
While they have seen videos of patients receiving baskets, nothing compared to watching their reactions in person.
“It’s absolutely kind of extraordinary,” Payton said. “It really just gives you this whole new perspective.”
Reagan isn’t sure what her next undertaking will be — she and Payton are focusing on continuing Buckets of Love, the Knitting Club and Alex’s Lemonade Stand — but she indicated she probably will find other ways to try to make the world a better place. “There are lots and lots of areas in our world that need improvement,” she said.