‘We should help because we can'

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:57

    CENTRAL VALLEY-When she was eight, Emily Dally would take what money she had, forget about the doll or new toy she wanted, and donate it to support less-fortunate children overseas. A decade later, Dally still sends money to help children in the Third World. But during the Christmas season, the 18 year-old senior at Monroe-Woodbury High School helped in another, more direct way. She became interested in helping children in Nicaragua in Central America after her cousin Vivian told stories of poor children she saw when she visited there while in college. "The children had no pens, pencils or soap," Dally recalled, "and had never bushed their teeth." As her cousin told the story to the family, Dally's grandmother listened. "My grandmother has traveled a lot and has seen a lot of things," Dally said. "She said, ‘I wish someone would do something for them,' and that's when I got the idea to help collect supplies." Dally then approached Sister Anne, the director of the CCD program at St. Patrick's Church in Highland Mills. They knew each other from when Dally took religious instruction. Dally hoped that Sister Anne would help her start a fund raising drive to collect supplies to send to Nicaragua. According to Dally's mother, Kathleen Burns, the initial plan to set up St. Patrick's preschool program directly with a pre-school in Nicaragua was not going to work. "But Emily could not just back out after letting the school know she was going to help," said Burns. Sister Anne, too, was persistent. She included Dally's collection drive to the list of charities she offered to her religious education students should they want to donate. "All the people in CCD jumped to help without even knowing the person they helped or having a connection," Dally said. "They just helped." From the CCD program at St. Patrick's alone, Dally collected 200 toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste, 100 bars of soap, socks and stuffed animals, 100 coloring books, crayons, pens and pencils. During the holiday season, Dally would visit St. Patrick's once a week and sort the collected items. After the drive was over, she took them home, spread the items throughout her family's living room and sorted them into boxes. Dally also had to carefully label and record everything so it would be accepted through U.S. Customs, her mother noted. Once everything was all boxed and packaged, the donations weighed in at more than 160 pounds. That raised another obstacle - paying for the $250 it would cost to ship the supplies to Central America. But it became just another mission. So she dug into her own pocket, and what she was short, her family made up the difference. "After we had shipped everything, the tsunami (in Asia) happened and so many people realized that there are others that need help," Dally said. In the weeks since she shipped off the supplies to the nursery school in Bambii, Nicaragua, Dally has focused on things closer to home. A skier on the varsity ski team, she was named the high school's athlete of the week earlier this month. In the fall, she expects to go to college, perhaps at Brown University or the University of Vermont. She has not yet received word back from the school in Nicaragua. She must wait until the package arrives, and that may take up to three months. It is then when the young children will open the contents which came from a strange far-away land and perhaps grab onto their first pencil or first toothbrush or even their first bar of soap. "We should help because we can," Dally said.