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Saline Second-Grader Organizes School-wide Toys for Tots Campaign

The Harvest Elementary student is asking for help to make dreams come true.

Like many schools, Harvest Elementary in Saline is holding a Toys for Tots campaign to collect gifts for needy children this holiday season.

What makes it stand out is the organizer. Cael Sutherland, 7, a second-grader at the school, is running the show -- even using his own money to pay for a pizza party to the class that brings in the most toys.

“It brings a tear to my eye,” said Artelia Reeves, Washtenaw County Toys for Tots Coordinator. 

Reeves said Cael is also leading the way and setting a good example for classmates.

“He’s so genuine,” she said. “At such a young age he’s a leader.”

Cael is pleading for donations for girls ages 6-13 and boys ages 9-13.

“I want to make sure everybody gets a toy this Christmas,” said Cael in a video he made. “Donate toys that you would want for Christmas or your birthday.”

Cael’s mom Jessica Sutherland said she has encouraged her children to participate in activities that help the community. This season, Cael was able to choose between a variety of organizations he could help, and his choice was Toys for Tots.

Each class at Harvest Elementary will collect toys and the teacher will tally the total each day, and then send them off to a big box in the main office. The toys will then be collected by Toys for Tots, and eventually make their way under trees at Christmastime.

Rosen-Leacher said that as the toys accumulate, and the other children see how Cael’s work has paid off, it will set a good example.  “It will help others to see how they can make a difference too,” she said.

On Thursday, Marine Pfc. Karl McKeehan visited Harvest Elementary to speak to students at lunchtime to help Cael promote the campaign.

Harvest Elementary Principal Betty Rosen-Leacher said Cael has already completed several tasks such as helping move boxes from a Toys for Tots storage unit to their headquarters.  

Rosen-Leacher said Cael also had to set up an appointment with her and create a set of questions to help kick start the campaign.

“He also prepared a speech and created fliers he paid to print with his own money,” said Rosen-Leacher. “His willingness to give to others and willingness to be so generous is a great example to his peers.”

U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots Program is a non-profit 501 (C) (3) organization that accepts donations and collects toys from drop off sites around the county to help less fortunate children. The organization aims to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December.

Toys for Tots accepts toys or cash donations.

Community members who wish to apply for Toys for Tots can visit KeyBank located at 301 W. Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti. Applications will be accepted beginning Nov. 12 through Dec. 21 weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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