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Jan 2, 2018 3:18 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton High School Juniors Plan To Bring Cheer To Children In Hospitals

Tori Schmitt, left, and Ashely Rea of East Hampton High School. JON WINKLER
Jan 2, 2018 4:32 PM

Some high school students have enough on their plates: classes, sports, after-school clubs and maybe even preparing for college. East Hampton High School juniors Tori Schmitt and Ashley Rea have been finding their own ways to keep busy at the end of the school day—as the organizers and managers of their own community action plans.

Tori and Ashley, friends since kindergarten, started their efforts over the summer in the hopes of bringing cheer to sick or injured children in local hospitals.

Tori’s program, Tori Story Time, involves collecting donations of children’s books, with the goal of having volunteers read the books to hospitalized kids. Ashley’s program is ART, short for Aesthetic Relieves Tension, through which she collects donated art supplies, with a goal of teaching painting and drawing to sick kids to help relieve stress.

Speaking over the phone on Saturday, the two teenagers said their projects began after they attended the Brown Leadership Institute at Brown University for two weeks in the summer.

With its slogan of “Learning, leadership and literacy,” Tori Story Time’s goal is to both comfort and educate sick kids. “It’s been proven that reading to children while they’re young enhances their learning ability and their literacy,” Tori said.

Ashley said her action plan came from her own passion for drawing and her idea of using creative arts as a means of coping with daily struggles. “My original goal was to create ART walls, which would be huge chalk walls for kids to draw on,” she said. “Now, I’m collaborating with Tori Story Time to gather art supplies, like coloring books and crayons, to donate to the kids at local hospitals.”

“We’re really focusing on helping children feel better and make time to take away the stresses of other illnesses and have a peer-to-peer interaction,” Tori said.

While the girls are still in the collecting phase of their action plans right now, they hope to donate their supplies and volunteer hours at Mount Sinai Hospital and possibly Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. Ashley said she and Tori plan to continue to collect donations and visit hospitals multiple times, beginning this month.

“Hopefully, when we donate the supplies, the kids will have something to come back to if they need a break,” Tori said.

“I think the reading and art aspect will provide two different ways for kids to focus on something else and escape to another world, rather than focusing on their illnesses,” Ashley said.

The girls said they have been working with the high school’s Key Club, a student division of Kiwanis Club of East Hampton, which offers community service opportunities, to garner volunteers and donations.

School advisers also spread the word about the girls’ action plans to John M. Marshall Elementary School and Springs School. The teens also gathered donations from the East Hampton community by hosting a holiday sugar cookie decoration event at the American Legion Post 419 in Amagansett in December.

“All the support and enthusiasm from our community is so rewarding,” Tori said. “Everyone’s willing to reach out and help us. It’s definitely going to be rewarding also when we go to the hospitals and see the kids’ faces when we give them the supplies and have that one-on-one experience.”

“I think that when we go to the hospitals and see the children’s faces and read and draw and color with them and have that bonding experience with them, it’ll be very rewarding,” Ashley said.

People who’d like to donate to Tori Story Time and ART can email toriangela@optonline.net and ashley.rea22@yahoo.com.

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