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Photo by Alyssa Sobotka, Wahoo Newspaper

Giving spirit: Sydney Barnes hands Wahoo Head Start Preschooler Kaiden Cuda, 4, two presents to be opened at Christmas during the Dec. 13 Christmas party she threw for the 40 Wahoo Head Start students and their families.

Barnes shares Christmas cheer

WMS 7th grader Sydney Barnes coordinates toy drive & Christmas party for Head Start students

This article was posted on the Wahoo Newspaper website on Fri., Dec. 23, 2016, and has been re-posted here with permission. Please click HERE to view the original article.

For one area teenager, spreading holiday cheer meant rallying a community and igniting the giving spirit.

On Dec. 13, Sydney Barnes, a Wahoo Middle School student, got to witness the wide smiles of Wahoo Head Start students as they met Santa at the Back Room in Wahoo and received gifts to open on Christmas. This was the second Christmas party Barnes coordinated for Head Start students and families.

“It feels good to do something for other people and see them happy,” Barnes said.

Another aspect of her volunteer work included firing up other community members to become involved, which Barnes said was without a doubt in full force this year.

The 12-year-old enlisted the help of her school and peers and hosted a toy drive at the middle school.

Within the first week, the prepared bins were already half full, Barnes said.

“It’s exciting to see there are kids in the community that want to get involved,” the seventh grader said. “I had a lot of sixth and eighth graders come up to me and told me what they brought and that they hoped the preschooler would like it.”

Wahoo Middle School was able to collect over 40 toys, which were gifted back in the community, Barnes’ mother, Stacey Barnes, said.

And the surplus will be saved for next year’s party, she added.

The project, which gifted two presents a piece to Wahoo’s 40 Head Start preschoolers, is a part of the Boxes of Love program.

Boxes of Love, founded by My’Kah Knowlin of Lincoln, got its start in the wake of the destructive 2011 Joplin, Mo. tornado.

Since then, the project has expanded to provide comfort items for active servicemen and collecting toys for children in need.

Barnes, who was named the 2016 Nebraska Super Star Princess of America, serves on the Boxes of Love board of directors. She first brought the project to Wahoo in 2014, after the Lincoln-based program began collecting a surplus of toys.

“There’s a lot we can do in Lincoln because it’s a bigger place, but I wanted to branch out and do it in my community,” Barnes said.

The community and preschoolers are very thankful of Barnes’ efforts, said Wahoo Head Start Family and Community Engagement Coordinator Jean Tesinsky.

Tesinsky said it’s wonderful to see the families come together and socialize.

“There’s some amazing friendships among the kids, and we hope the parents can make that connection too,” Tesinsky said during the Christmas party.

After Barnes hands down her title in March, she doesn’t plan on retiring from community service.

“There’s no way I’m going to stop doing community service,” she said. “It’s definitely changed me as a person and is too meaningful.”



Barnes shares Christmas cheer

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