Local school tradition spreads joy to cancer patients
For two weeks straight, Laura Shaffer opened up her kindergarten classroom during afternoon recess, as students flooded in to work on a beloved community project.
They set up an assembly line, and for the next half hour, students stood and filled plastic goody bags with hot cocoa packets and candy before securing them with pink tags and twisty ties.
“The students do everything,” Shaffer said.
Students at Livonia’s Randolph Elementary School helped bag an astounding 1,696 Valentine’s care packages this February, and delivered them to local cancer patients, including those at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor’s infusion center.
“We talked about where it was going and what we were doing, and never did our students ask if they could eat the candy,” Shaffer chuckled.
A fellow Randolph Elementary teacher started the tradition in 2006 when her mother was receiving cancer treatment at St. Joe’s. It was around Valentine’s Day when she noticed a candy basket going around.
“She said, ‘You know what, we can do better than this,'” Shaffer said, and students have delivered sweet treats to patients there every February since.
“Our whole thing is spreading joy and kindness to others,” she added.
Everything – from the hot cocoa to the supplies – is donated by the student body, and Shaffer takes the lead in gathering students to assemble the care packages. She delivered several boxes of hand-assembled care packages – Randolph’s largest Valentine’s delivery to date – to St. Joe’s infusion center on Feb. 6. Much to her delight, she had the opportunity to greet some patients herself.
“We actually walked around and handed a few bags to patients, and you could just see their eyes light up, and they were very thankful,” she said.
Shaffer said the labor of love is one of the students’ favorite traditions because it allows younger and older students to participate, and its core message is universal.
“It brings everyone together,” she said. “It helps them show empathy toward others. Just getting that intrinsic motivation to make others happy.”
The kindness doesn’t go unnoticed, as Shaffer noted they receive dozens of thank-you cards each year that are displayed in the hallways for students to read.
If you’ve received a care package from Randolph students and would like to send a thank-you note, you can send it to:
Randolph Elementary School
14470 Norman St.
Livonia, MI 48154