We were supposed to be reading but instead spent our precious few minutes together counting- because that’s what four-year-old preschooler Chase wanted to do. Initially I tried to steer him back to our “assignment” of enunciating each word in Ten Little Ladybugs, however, he was much more interested in touching the little raised ladybugs, counting them over and over and over again. So I let go of my pre-planned agenda and let Chase lead the way, which provided for a fun, educational experience I could not stop thinking about as I was en route to Porter-Leath’s annual Toy Truck, now in its 17th year.
The Toy Truck, presented this year by International Paper, is parked in a prominent Memphis-area location every holiday season so that members of our community can donate new, unwrapped toys for children who are part of Porter-Leath’s preschool program. Each school day, 6,200 children from at-risk families here in Memphis enter the doors at Porter-Leath with the same potential and capacity to learn as children not growing up in at-risk environments. As I saw with Chase, these children do not lack the intelligence, drive, or creativity to succeed; they lack the resources. These resources include games, toys, board books with little raised ladybugs- anything that provides the opportunity for their growing minds to engage in tactile, thought-provoking, laughter-inducing learning: learning through play. We, as a community, can help Porter-Leath in their efforts to change the trajectory of thousands of children so that those who may have become a statistic can now become statisticians.
I can totally see Chase as a statistician. Or an Actuary. Anything his bright mind leads him to be, actually, if given the chance.
We can help by simply throwing a few extra toys in our shopping cart as we shop for our own children- helping Santa out again this year in ways they can’t even fathom! There are so many under the guidance of Porter-Leath yearning for a chance to soar above their circumstances, even as the severity of these circumstances threatens to keep them from rising above the murk they had absolutely no hand in creating. But if you’ve ever wondered what resilience and perseverance really look like, observe a young child determined to achieve a goal, even when the odds aren’t in his favor. He wants to read longer, count higher; she wants to color brighter, build taller. But they have already mastered the materials they have at home, or those materials are now long gone, and Santa needs to show up and show out so that they can continue defying the odds.
We need to show up and shout out for these kids.
If you haven’t begun your holiday shopping just yet, cash, check, and credit card donations are accepted as well. The Porter-Leath team will ensure that your gifts make their way into the lives and hearts of these little ones who still believe in the magic of it all, encouraging us to still believe, too.
For more information on Porter-Leath’s Preschool and various other programs, please visit www.porterleath.org
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