Lenten project nets needed baby items

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As part of a school Lenten project, fifth-grade students at St. Leo the Great School in Fairfax collected baby items for Divine Mercy Care in Fairfax. DMC is a "nonprofit healthcare organization that is on a mission to 'Transform Hearts Through Healthcare.'" DMC provides faith-based medical services to women through the Tepeyac Family Center in Fairfax.

The baby product project was part of a larger Lenten effort that would define student spiritual activities for Lent like prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The effort was organized by fifth-grade teacher Mary Byczek. Ten activities were chosen and were listed on student-made construction paper crosses. As promises were fulfilled, a star was placed by the promise on the student's cross, "to make them visually aware of what was accomplished," Byczek said.

The DMC baby effort collected about 350 items including onesies, diapers, blankets and bottles. Byczek's classroom was the storage area for the boxes until delivery to the DMC office last week.

To add a personal touch to the storage boxes, student decorated them. On one box, "Welcome to the world little ones, light of God" was written with colored pencil.

The students worked with their parents to collect the money to buy the baby products. Some students earned money by doing chores around the house; others borrowed money from their savings. Frequently parents matched their child's contribution. Parents and students went to local stores to buy the supplies.

On March 25, both fifth-grade classes crowded into Byczek's room to hear Principal David DiPippa thank the students for their efforts. One by one, students shared their sacrifices and what their efforts meant to make life for a newborn more comfortable..

"If you do good things it will come back to you," said Katherine Burkhart.

Rachel Sloboda said, "I used my birthday money and (my family) matched it."

Sofia Tejada went to T.J. Maxx and bought shoes and onesies, she said.

In a moment of evangelization, one girl said her mother never heard of Tepeyac Family Center.

"I had to explain it to her," she said.

The students were asked to evaluate their Lenten project experience .

"Many of them saw it as an agreement between them and God," said Byczek. Some wrote that it made them more aware of Lent and what else to do besides giving something up."

Byczek said the evaluations showed that students enjoyed praying for the DMC babies and buying them gifts.

"I love this Lent activity," Byczek added. "It even challenges me to do more for my students and makes me more accountable, too, in this holy season."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015