"Do Something" Means
The Beat of a
with Jim Chapin
to Make a
Message as Key
Freedom of Choice
in the Cradle...
LUNCH for WHY
Howard Fields and
Al Stewart in
Benefit KIDS Can
Make a Difference
Readers Share Thoughts
in Second Annual
to read previous
issues of Circle!
Use Pocket Change to Make a Big Difference
Farrell Robinson and Sam Robinson
glance, Sam Robinson and Farrell Robinson (no relation) look like typical
seventh grade students. They have brothers, sisters, dogs and cats. Sam
enjoys baseball, basketball and golf. Farrell is accomplished at ballet,
tap, and hip-hop dance. They attend a private Catholic school, come from
solid families and live hurly-burly lives like so many kids.
But Sam and Farrell are far from average. Sam, 12, and Farrell, 13, are
the President and Vice President of "Pocket Change for Peds,"
an association dedicated to raising awareness of, and funding for, The
Huntsville Hospital for Women and Children, a local pediatric health care
institution, in Huntsville, Alabama.
Both Sam and Farrell, who have been friends since the first grade, have
also been patients at the hospital. "When I was at the hospital to
get my tonsils out, I noticed a lot of the toys were broken. I had been
donating my old Play Stations to the hospital since I was six, but I saw
that more was needed," Sam explained.
Sam called Farrell, whom he described as a "hard worker," and
she was eager to help. "I have also been in the hospital with asthma
attacks," Farrell said, "and I wanted to give back to the community."
So in the fall of 2003, they founded the organization whose motto is "Kids
Sam and Farrell formulated a plan to raise money to purchase new toys
for the recently renovated hospital. "We asked our principal if we
could put a donation jar in each classroom so kids could put their spare
change in it," Sam said.
The principal agreed, and the students placed jars in 18 classrooms. "We
spoke to each class and encouraged the students to contribute," he
explained. Hence the name, "Pocket Change for Peds."
During one school year, they raised $2,500 for toys and presented the
money to Candy Burnett, President of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation.
That accomplishment might have been enough for most youngsters, but for
Sam and Farrell, it was just the spark that ignited a flame.
Their success spiraled into a new concept. They decided the hospital needed
a play garden on the roof so the children could go outdoors during their
hospital stay, citing the benefits of fresh air, sunshine, exercise, and
lessening the emotional stress of being a patient.
get our ideas from taking virtual tours on our computers of other pediatric
hospitals," Sam noted. They also have been perusing catalogs on children's
playground equipment and using their own vivid imaginations.
They envision a garden with tables and chairs, a waterfall, a fun house,
trees, grass, plants, interactive play stations and perhaps a tree house.
"We want to promote learning while providing fun," Farrell added.
It will be a place for the patients and their parents to go to escape
illness, needles, medicines and x-rays for a while.
The two entrepreneurs acknowledged this was a huge endeavor, and that
they would need the assistance and cooperation of countless others. So
they inspired 30 more students from schools all over North Alabama to
meet with them each month to brainstorm and transform the dream into reality.
"This is a great example of good kids," said Burnett. "Start
them young and get them excited."
The youths have met with pediatricians, architects, bankers, construction
engineers, and administrators of the hospital. As a result, Sam and Farrell
have honed their public speaking skills and converse with corporate presidents,
entrepreneurs and the press with ease.
Sam and Farrell say the easy part is sharing their enthusiasm and recruiting
help from others. Generating much-needed donations to reach their $75,000
goal, on the other hand, requires a lot of hard work.
Through a combination of car washes, fundraising banquets, sponsored tournaments,
private donations, corporate donations, and foundation support, among
other sources, they have accrued more than $45,000 since last August,
and their efforts are still going strong.
"Penny the Pig," a piggy bank figure, is their mascot, and sponsors
earn the honor of being "Pig's Feet," "Pork Rinds,"
"Sausages," "Pork Chops," "Hams" or "Bacon,"
depending on their level of contribution.
Other challenges have arisen but the young activists remain undeterred.
For example, there are construction obstacles that delayed opening the
garden, but those are being worked on diligently. The youths have the
full support of the administration of Huntsville Hospital and as an added
plus, one of the students they recruited for their work team is the daughter
of the vice president in charge of new construction at the hospital.
Sam and Farrell have volunteered for many causes over many years. Recently,
they assisted in relief efforts for the Tsunami victims, raised money
for a parish in Haiti, collected blankets for the homeless, helped with
landscaping at their school and church grounds, generated donations for
cancer research and helped special needs children in their community.
All of that volunteer time on all of those projects doesn't come without
significant sacrifice. Frequently, they have to decline invitations to
parties and other festivities because of their obligations, but both are
quick to point out the benefits of their efforts far outweigh the sacrifices.
"I have no regrets. I enjoy what I am doing and have learned so much,"
He was recently
honored in Washington D.C. as one of the nation's top 10 youth volunteers
in a ceremony sponsored by the Prudential Spirit of Community Initiative
and the National Secondary Schools Principals. Sam said he particularly
enjoyed meeting and conversing with the keynote speaker, Colin Powell.
Robinson (right) joins fellow honoree Victor Cross (center) to receive
Spirit of Community Award from former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
inspires these youths? Sam said his heroes are "President Bush, because
he is the leader of our country, Martin Luther King, because he led people
and made a difference, and Nelson Mandela."
Farrell found it hard to pick just one. "So many people, mostly family
members, have made a difference in my life and I want to make a difference
in theirs," she said. "One person I do admire is Rosa Parks,
because she stood up for what she believed."
She also cited another influence for her activism. "We were inspired
by our religion classes to give back to the community," Farrell added.
"A lot of kids think, I am just one kid in the world and I
can't do anything, but they realize they can do a lot when they
Both students already have ideas on how they'd like to make a difference
in their adult lives. Farrell said she plans to attend The College of
William and Mary, major in math and science and teach the same in a university
one day. She also plans to teach dance.
Sam said he aspires to go to Boston College then on to Harvard or Yale
for law school. After that
he'd like to be President of the United States, he said.
You can write to Sam and Farrell at Srobinson171@hotmail.com
for the Next Issue of Circle! on September 7