Lunch room chatter among elementary school kids is usually about homework, cliques and video games.
But in March 2017, 10-year-old Reagan Garnsey had an animated lunchtime chat with her friend Michele about ways to give back to the community, specifically other children.
This energetic exchange of ideas laid the groundwork for the Buckets of Love Foundation, which donates age-appropriate toys and crafts lovingly packaged in buckets to children receiving medical care and residing in homeless shelters.
Reagan recruited her younger sister, Payton, then 6, to help bring the idea to life. With the help and support of family and friends, the two sisters, who attend Holy Cross School in Dover, laid the groundwork to become an official charitable organization.
As of March 2019, the organization had donated a total of 6,555 buckets in all 50 states. A portion of those were donated in Delaware through relationships with Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, Bayhealth and other organizations that support their goal of “helping bring smiles to children’s faces one bucket at a time.”
Reagan, now 12, handles most of the communication through email and social media. Seven-year-old Payton’s favorite parts of the project are the shopping, assembly of the buckets and creation of the handwritten cards that are included in each one.
“Buckets of Love is a big part of our lives, for both Reagan and Payton and us as parents,” says the girls’ mom, Angela Garnsey. “The girls are certainly the heart of the project. However, my husband and I do assist with organization. As parents we believe it is our job to let their ambitions soar and provide support as needed.”
In June 2018, Reagan and Payton were recipients of the Jefferson Awards Foundation LEAD360 award, which honors fun, simple and scalable projects created by youth committed to community service.
Winning the national award and the subsequent relationship with the Jefferson Awards Foundation helped them to build even more partnerships and significantly increase the number of buckets they could provide.
The girls pledged to have an activation or donation in all 50-states, making them the first LEAD360 winner to have their project affect communities throughout the entire country. They are on pace to not just reach their goal, but to also fill 10,000 buckets across the country.
“When we started, we never expected for the journey to be this amazing,” Reagan says. “We can’t wait to see how our project expands and continues to make an impact on children in our community … one bucket at a time!”
Learn more about the project at bucketsoflove.us.