While a day off from school this Martin Luther King Day can sometimes mean a day to sleep in, Sanford students were up early, putting their youthful energy to work at several needy organizations in our community. The Sanford Day of Service is not a small undertaking, with weeks of planning and preparation to ensure that both students and organizations get the most out of the experience.
Every year Sanford students from Pre-K – 12 celebrate MLKing Day by volunteering at local churches, hospitals, day care centers, food and clothing cooperatives, pet shelters and even the Ronald McDonald House. It was Dr. King’s dream, reflecting our commitment to serving the community, making a difference in the lives of others, and enriching the lives of our students, which influenced the foundation of our Day of Service nine years ago.
Our hands-on effort was the vision of Sanford School’s former Head of School, Douglas MacKelcan, a dream our current Head of School Mark Anderson continues to kindle and embrace today. This collaborative day has also sparked the volunteering efforts of many of our current students and graduates who have continued to volunteer year-round because of their exposure to projects, which are often not available to adolescent children.
The Sanford Day of Service is planned and coordinated by Middle School math teacher Bruce Pill months in advance. The day begins with an all-school assembly prior to loading the readily available school buses to more than a dozen non-profit and charitable organizations. The Lower School children in grades Pre K-4 typically remain on campus, however, and volunteer for a variety of projects where their smaller hands can be utilized to prepare biscuits, organize and pack brightly-decorated care packages filled with toiletries and snacks for various groups, organize and sort children’s clothing for delivery to the Clothing Bank of Delaware, write cards and letters to the troops, and many other age-appropriate projects.
Middle Schoolers were given more responsibility, and each class adopted their own charity. 5th graders, for example, solicited clothing donations last week, while the 6th grade collected nearly 900 pounds of canned goods. Middle and Upper School students then visit a variety of non-profits including:
- Brandywine Creek State Park
- Catholic Charities Thrift Center
- Chester County Food Bank
- Clothing Bank of Delaware
- Emily Bissell Care Center
- Faithful Friends
- Food Bank of Delaware
- Latin American Community Center
- Longwood Gardens
- QUEST Therapeutics
- Sojourner’s Place
- Supporting Kidds
- Tri-State Bird Rescue
- Urban Bike Project
- Urban Promise
The spirit of the Sanford Day of Service has continued beyond graduation, as many of our Sanford alumni and their friends return to campus to lend a hand and celebrate this important day. Two Sanford graduates, Sammer Madarani, class of ’08 and Edwin Santiago class of ’07, former University of Delaware basketball players, formalized the tradition of returning to Sanford’s campus to volunteer. They have brought with them the entire men’s basketball team, as well as members of the volleyball and baseball teams. These student athletes help the star-struck younger students with the projects that take place on Sanford’s campus and by providing extra hands are an important support to Sanford’s Lower School teachers.
As our country commemorates the 50th anniversary of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic “I Have a Dream Speech” on August 28, 1963, we all reflect back to Dr. King’s powerful vision of democracy. Dr. King’s dream, which was so eloquently communicated from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, will have a deeper place in the hearts of all Sanford students and graduates as they “will be able to work together… to struggle together, to stand up for freedom…” honoring Dr. King through our Day of Service.
Eph Humphreys is the Head of Middle School and coach of the Varsity boys lacrosse team at Sanford School.