August 7, 2012
City girl has a plan to help children become more active
Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Lindsey Smith, 11, mans her toy table in Suggett Park Monday. She was given $100 by Community Action Program of Cortland County and spent it on toys to give away free to children to encourage them to be more active.
Lindsey Smith is having a wonderful summer, and she wants to share that with other children around her age.
The 11-year-old, entering sixth grade at Parker Elementary School, said she has had a wonderful upbringing, one which included very little hardship. She is able to go out and play when she wants, picking from a bevy of toys and accessories to accompany her.
But on Monday at Suggett Park, it was Smith helping others to enjoy the summer months, giving away an array of toys and other things that can help children stay outside and active as part of the Kids are Key program run by the Cortland County Community Action Program.
CAPCO provides individuals and families with programs and resources that promote self-reliance and dignity.
It solicited essays from the community about ways to make it a better place. There were three separate categories: ages 6 to 12, 13 to 18, and family. There was a winner selected from each, and Smith won in her group. The prize was $100 for the winner to use in building the community in a positive way for the next generation.
“I was thinking that it stinks for kids who don’t have toys to play with outside,” Smith said. “When I won, I decided, ‘why not have a toy giveaway?’ I hope to get kids outside and away from the boredom of watching movies and television.”
The goal of the project is to identify and develop a solution to address an unmet need of children living in the community. Kids are Key also aims to show children they don’t have to wait until they are adults to make a positive change in society.
From noon until 2 p.m. Monday, Smith set up a table beside the basketball courts and placed a bevy of newly purchased toys for other children to take home. Smith spent every cent on things ranging from plastic baseball bat and ball sets to sand buckets to sidewalk chalk, and many things in between. The goal was to have it all given away Monday. However, Smith planned to set up shop today at Dexter Park from noon until 2 p.m. to finish what she started.
On hand to help Smith was her mother, Amanda Keep, and Brandy Strauf, both of whom work as family advocates for CAPCO. Keep said her affiliation with the group had no bearing on her daughter’s essay being selected.
Both said the idea and work behind the project were all that of Smith’s, and that aside from being Smith’s taxi, they were hands off.
“Lindsey came up with it all and I just gave her a little guidance,” Strauf, 33, said. “We’re going to keep this going until all of the toys are gone.”
She added that Smith strategically set up at Suggett Park because of the free lunch program, knowing that many children would be in the park and might want a free toy or two.
Keep, 32, said this is just who her daughter is, a kind-hearted girl with the desire to help others.
“She’d go without if she knew someone else needed it,” Keep said.
Smith’s handwritten essay comprises four paragraphs with many different ideas.
“If I had money I would buy toys for the kids whose parents can’t afford to buy them toys,” the essay begins. “I would buy dolls for the girls and cars for the boys and for the little ones Play-doh or coloring books and crayons.”
She outlines a way to advertise her idea before concluding with: “I think my idea is a good idea because it’s no fun to be a kid without toys.”
Smith, an avid baker who hopes to attend the Culinary Institute of America someday, had an aim that was not included in her essay.
“I wanted to get kids off the couch and outside where they can be active,” she said.
On Saturday at Yaman Beach beginning at 11 a.m., the winner of the family category will be promoting hydration, giving away reusable water bottles until they are gone. The teenage group will be doing a back-to-school clothing drive on Sept. 4 at CAPCO, 32 N. Main St. offices. Prior to that, on Friday, the teens are hosting a Kids Carnival from 6 to 8 p.m. at the YMCA. Admission is $5 per family, and there will be games, prizes and raffles. All proceeds will benefit the Kids are Key program.
For more information on any of these events, call Strauf at 607-753-6781.
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