Each year on the Friday before Martin Luther King Day, the eighth graders of Strath Haven Middle School embark upon a service project designed to give back to the community where they call home.

On Jan. 18, approximately 15 of those students gathered inside the Swarthmore Community Center to make good on their choice of this year’s beneficiary: the HEADstrong Foundation, a Delaware County-based nonprofit whose core mission is to help improve the livelihoods of families dealing with a cancer diagnosis.

Adjacent to the community center on the other side of Harvard Avenue sits Nick’s House, which HEADstrong opened in February 2018 to provide complimentary lodging and comfort to patients and caregivers who have traveled to the Philadelphia area to combat a cancer diagnosis. Together, the middle schoolers, along with teachers and HEADstrong staff members, made Valentine’s Day decorations to be hung inside Nick’s House. Additionally, the students wrote cards and stuffed goodie bags, which will be distributed to hospital patients in need of a Valentine’s Day pick-me-up.

“We wanted to help support this foundation because its founder was part of our community,” student Emily McCullough said of HEADstrong founder Nicholas Colleluori, who died of cancer in 2006. “It’s important to us because we want to help families who need it just like the people at HEADstrong are doing right now.”

The students, who also received a tour of Nick’s House, are encouraged to engage in their community and chose HEADstrong in part because of the arrival of Nick’s House about a year ago.

“I never realized how much families dealing with cancer needed to put so much money into hospital stays,” student Samantha Dykes said. “It’s taught me to be grateful for what I have, and by making these decorations, cards and bags, we just want to help people who aren’t feeling well. To hopefully be able to make their day and feel like they can get through this.”

In addition to the Strath Haven kids, students at Springton Lake Middle School have also joined the HEADstrong ambassador family. Springton Lake has developed various fundraising opportunities like obstacle courses and proceed nights at local restaurants in the community.

Now, the two schools are battling one another in the Providence Cup, a contest to see who can raise more awareness and funds on behalf of HEADstrong.

“I told the kids the other day that in the three years I’ve been here, this is my favorite day of the year,” Strath Haven school counselor Mark Taylor said.

To learn more about the Strath Haven vs. Springton Lake Providence Cup and how you can help, visit here!

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