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Johns Hopkins Montgomery County Campus Brightens Holidays for RICA Students

Students gather around giftsFor at least the past 15 years, staff members at Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus have been brightening the holiday spirits of children at a special education school next door.

This past holiday season was no exception.

“They ask for anything from as little as socks to a drum pad,” said Paula Kramer, the campus’ administrative coordinator and organizer of the gift drive. “Jeans, sneakers, a lot of very basic, inexpensive things.”

More than 15 years ago – current organizers can’t recall exactly when the program started – Johns Hopkins Montgomery County Campus launched a gift drive for students attending the John L. Gildner Regional Institute for Children and Adolescents, or RICA. The Montgomery County public school is located next door to the Johns Hopkins Montgomery County Campus. RICA is a special education school for students with emotional disabilities, autism, specific learning disabilities and other health issues. RICA provides day and residential treatment programs.

Some children come from families that don’t have the financial resources to provide their children with many gifts during the holiday season, said Marlayna Proctor, director of community resources and development  for RICA. Therapists at the school work with the families to determine financial need. Therapists then help the students fill out forms listing their needs and wishes.

The requests are forwarded to Kramer, who coordinates the endeavor for Johns Hopkins staff. This year, staff fulfilled 30 student wishes.

“It’s important for everyone to be as generous as possible to those who need things,” Kramer said. “It shows we care about our community and for the needy. Everyone who contributes feels good about doing this.”

Proctor said the students are ecstatic to receive gifts from Johns Hopkins staff members, as well as from other companies in the community.

“It gives them the items they need, the clothing they might not have otherwise,” Proctor said. “It puts a smile on their face to know they have a gift to open Christmas morning.”

“They don’t want people to feel or treat them as needy,” Proctor continued. “Not only were they thankful for the items, they were thankful that someone gave them the item.”

RICA currently enrolls 98 day students and 32 residential students in grades six through 12.

CATEGORY: In The Community