She may only be a 7-year-old, but Kayla Harte already has a huge heart. For the last two years, with the hopes of cheering up young patients, the second-grader has been a frequent visitor to Stony Brook Children’s Hospital’s pediatric oncology department.
Kayla’s mother, Robyn Harte, said when the W.S. Mount Elementary School student started visiting the patients, she would bring homemade get well cards and care packages. She began drawing cards with Minion characters from the film “Despicable Me” on them after she heard they were some of the children’s favorite characters, and she would always be looking for new things to bring them.
“Every time we would go and deliver the items she would see that they would be so well received,” her mother said. “The coordinators would tell her how much the children would appreciate it and enjoy it, and it really motivated her to do more.”
During the summer while watching television, Kayla saw a commercial for the Disney Summer of Service grant through Youth Service America and asked her mother if she could apply for it. In November Kayla was one of 340 young leaders in the country awarded a $500 grant.
The money was given to Stony Brook Children’s Child Life Services Department, and Kayla and Director Joan Alpers decided it would be used to buy character bandages and musical toys for the patients. The young volunteer planned to match the grant by starting a project called Friends for Child Life, and she felt that boxes of Band-Aids as well as toys would be easy for people to bring to her, especially her fellow students.
“It makes me feel like she has this gift that she wants to give to other children, and she’s so genuine about it,” her mother said. “She really wants to help other children. She wants to make them feel better. It’s just such a lovely thing for me. It makes me feel really proud and very inspired.”
To kick off her character Band-Aid and musical toy drives, Kayla first asked friends and family members by emailing or texting them a video she and her mother created. Before she knew it, she received approximately 70 boxes of bandages and six musical toys. Her Girl Scout Troop 337 also donated items, and during Random Acts of Kindness Week at her school, fellow students joined the cause and she received close to 100 Band-Aid boxes that week, according to her mother.
“It makes me feel like she has this gift that she wants to give to other children, and she’s so genuine about it.”
— Robyn Harte
Kayla said she was excited when she heard she received the grant, and she’s happy with the amount of donations she has been receiving, especially since she is three-quarters of the way to her goal of 200 character Band-Aid boxes and 40 musical toys.
“I can’t wait to see the happy people at the hospital,” she said.
Even though her project for the Disney grant ends March 31, she plans to continue the drives on a smaller scale. The second-grader, who wants to play for the Mets one day, said once you start volunteering your time it feels so good that, “you can’t even stop doing it.”
Her mother said she and Kayla’s father, Dennis, are proud of how she ran with the project.
“I’m really proud of her,” she said. “I think she’s setting a really good example for other children her age to let them know that you don’t have to be a teenager or a grown-up to make a difference.”