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‘Frozen Hands’ Heats up Student’s Winter Clothing Drive


Madisyn “Maddie” DeHorn received $10 from her grandparents for Christmas. The money came with a mission attached.

The Duncan Lake Middle School seventh-grader was instructed to do “something good” with the cash.

“They want to see how much good I can do with $10,” said Maddie, 12.

She didn’t disappoint them.

Maddie successfully amassed 100 hats, gloves, mittens and scarves that were then gladly given to Godfrey Lee Public Schools elementary students who lacked the necessary garments to stay warm.

A Godfrey Lee Early Education Center student is all bundled up in a hat from the winter clothes donation
A Godfrey Lee Early Education Center student is all bundled up in a hat from the winter clothes donation

What $10 Kick-Started

The key to collecting the high volume of donated winter garments is to not rely on only one method, Maddie explained. She first used some of the $10 to purchase gloves, and used the remaining money to buy frosting and sprinkles for a cookie-decorating party where the “price” of admission was a donated hat, scarf or a pair of gloves.

Then her mother, Melissa DeHorn, a third-grade teacher at Caledonia Elementary, rallied her students to bring in newly purchased items for donation.

The idea for the winter clothing drive was initiated by Maddie’s uncle, Jason Michael Surian, principal of Godfrey Early Childhood Center, who told her his own story.

Baby It’s Cold Outside

“He gave his mittens up because a kid’s hands were freezing, and that’s what started it,” Maddie recalled. “That changed the way I see people. I realized not everyone has what you have, the stuff I take for granted. I don’t want to take those things for granted anymore.”

Maddie said she understands a little better how those with lower incomes can work hard and still not have very much money at the end of their paychecks.

“I see people working hard, but it doesn’t always go well for them, and the kids suffer for that,” she said.

A Godfrey Lee Early Childhood Center student plays at recess in a hat donated through the efforts of Caledonia Public Schools seventh-grader Madisyn DeHorn
A Godfrey Lee Early Childhood Center student plays at recess in a hat donated through the efforts of Caledonia Public Schools seventh-grader Madisyn DeHorn

Put to Good Use

Surian, Madisyn’s uncle, said the hats and gloves sized for kindergarten through fifth-graders have gone to good use. Madisyn presented him with the items during winter break.

He smiled when he talked about his niece’s contribution, and said the whole family is proud of her efforts. “It was really impressive,” he said.

Some Godfrey Lee students have recently moved from warmer climates and aren’t prepared for winter’s chill, Surian added. The school goes through a multitude of hats and gloves each winter for students without them.

Steeelcase, Inc., also has donated knitted hats, and students at East Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Lakeside Elementary donated coats last winter.

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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