Many people pooled their talents and their money to support Children’s National

John Kelly
Columnist January 28

One morning in December, 11-year-old Ke’Ala Hurst and two friends, Samantha and Allison Bertone, baked cookies. When they were done, they packed the cookies up and set out on a walk through their Magothy Manor neighborhood in Anne Arundel County.

They knocked on the doors of their neighbors, offered a cookie and politely asked whether the homeowners might be interested in making a donation to Children’s National. They also sold raffle tickets to win a gift certificate to a restaurant, the Broadneck Grill.

John Kelly writes "John Kelly's Washington," a daily look at Washington's less-famous side. Born in Washington, John started at The Post in 1989 as deputy editor in the Weekend section. View Archive

Through their efforts the girls raised $158. That is approximately .00034 percent of the total $467,990.41 that was donated by Washington Post readers during this year’s campaign.

When you look at it that way, the $158 might seem minuscule. Of course, it was anything but. Here were three girls doing something nice for kids they’d never met, for a place they hoped never to have to visit.

Small measures have a way of gaining great momentum. And so today I want to thank Ke’Ala, Samantha and Allison, along with all the other groups of friends, neighbors and co-workers who pooled their time and their money to participate in my annual fundraising campaign for Children’s National.

At times, our region can seem impersonal, unfriendly even. I humbly suggest that’s not the case. My sincere gratitude to the following groups, many of which have been giving to Children’s for decades:

Alexandria Shooter’s Hill neighborhood ecumenical carolers ($1,090.70)

The Office of Cosmetics and Colors of the Food and Drug Administration ($305)

Air Line Pilots Association International, Herndon and Washington offices ($1,205)

Able Building Inspection of Front Royal ($250)

The Bresler Foundation ($1,000)

Civitan Club of Tysons ($5,000)

Crown Pawnbrokers ($250)

R. Thomas Daniel Roofing ($50)

Joyful Heart Yoga of Alexandria ($800)

Kennedy Center Tuesday Morning Tour Guides ($1,000)

Kensington Bridge Club ($103)

Leslie Gold Memorial Fund ($1,000)

Montgomery Gentlemen ($250)

N.B. Consultants ($500)

Nazareth Baptist Church ($200)

Ollie at Your Service ($150)

John F.P. O’Malley Consulting ($100)

Presidential Meats ($100)

Shapiro & Duncan ($1,265)

Society of FBI Alumni, Northern Virginia Chapter ($100)

Staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation ($1,460)

Stratford Woman’s Club ($100)

Transportation Research Board, the National Academies ($1,851)

Woman’s Life Insurance Society, Unit 3 ($75)

E.J. Whitcomb and Sons ($100)

The Ya Ya Girls from D.C. and Northern Virginia ($200)

Thank you to everyone who donated. When combined with the $150,000 gift from Bill and Joanne Conway and their Bedford Falls Foundation, we had one of our best years in recent memory.

Student achievement

Children’s National isn’t the only local outfit that readers of this column are supporting. You’ll recall that in the fall I suggested that if you hadn’t already linked your Giant or Safeway card to a school, you might link it to W.B. Patterson Elementary in the District. It’s a low-impact way of helping a struggling school.

Tom Oberdorfer decided to take things a bit further. Tom lives in Arlington. He’s a licensed clinical social worker who also coaches lacrosse.

Moved by my column about Patterson, he decided to send the school a check. Then he invited friends, neighbors and colleagues to donate “to see if we can help lift these kids part way out of the hole they are in.”

Of the 100 or so people Tom approached, nearly half wrote checks. In December, Tom went to the school to deliver $6,500 in donations to Patterson’s principal, Victorie Thomas.

“It just felt so warm and genuine in terms of the connection with her staff and with the kids in the school,” said Tom, 61.

Said a very thankful Principal Thomas: “He is such a sweetheart.” She’ll use the money to purchase Scholastic reading libraries for each classroom, a way to enhance the school’s literacy program.

Tom has also been tutoring at Patterson, visiting the Southeast school regularly to help two fifth-graders with their homework. Now he’s trying to come up with ways to encourage better attendance, a perennial problem in schools with a high proportion of kids who come from troubled families.

Others in the community have reached out, too. Giant donated $600 worth of gift cards that Principal Thomas gave to parents at a parent-appreciation event.

As for the bottom line — helping kids improve — Principal Thomas is hopeful but realistic. “I do think we’ll show gains,” she said. “I know that it’s going to take us time to move and show the dramatic gains the system wants us to show. . . . This is a staff that’s really committed.”

Said Tom: “They have Adopt-a-Road programs. I wonder what would work with an Adopt-a-School program?”

It looks to me like some nice people have unofficially adopted Patterson.

For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.

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