Watson Students Fundraise to Help Children Experiencing Homelessness

Watson students at HCEF

Special Education students at the Education Center Sewickley at the Watson Institute sold holiday cards again this season to raise funds to provide holiday gifts to children experiencing homelessness in local shelters run by the Homeless Children’s Education Fund (HCEF).

This annual holiday project has been in place since 2011 and as the project has grown, so too have the proceeds. This year allowed Watson students to purchase 90 gifts for children experiencing homelessness valued at $500.

Katie Patterson, a team coordinator at Watson’s Education Center Sewickley, started the project as a classroom teacher in 2011. Katie’s father, Bill Wolfe, is the Executive Director at HCEF. “I wanted to teach my students about community service and giving to others” said Katie. “With my dad being the Executive Director of HCEF, I had the opportunity to visit shelters and meet families experiencing homelessness. I wanted to find a way to collaborate with HCEF to help these families around the holidays and teach my students about the importance of helping others.”

Fundraiser Helps Students Work on Functional & Vocational Skills

The students in this classroom are between the ages of 12 to 19 and are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other special needs.  All 10 students participated in the project and each created their own design based on their interests and ideas.

So that each student could participate to their best of their ability, classroom teachers and aides used adaptive equipment, such as communication devices, for students to choose colors, patterns, shapes and designs. Students also packaged the printed cards, delivered them internally at the school and they collected money for the orders. Their pride when they received compliments on the finished product was evident.

With the money raised from the card sale students shopped for gifts at Five Below, Wal-Mart, and Tuesday Morning.  The gift ideas were suggested by shelter staff and included board games, crafts, art supplies and sporting equipment.

Professional Graphic Communications, Inc. (PGC) in Sewickley, PA printed the cards again this year. Watson partners with PGC as a Community Based Instruction site where students help out in the office learning vocational skills.

Watson students visited the HCEF office in person on to deliver the gifts. This gave them the chance to see the positive impact of their charitable actions.

Learn more about the Watson Institute’s special education schools and how our staff incorporate functional and vocational learning opportunities into charitable activities!

Video by Amanda Jupena, WTAE TV Pittsburgh’s Action 4 News