The Jared Box Project Celebrates One Million Smiles

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From the Jared Box Project

For over 20 years, The Jared Box Project has delivered smiles, laughter, and hope to children in hospitals across the country. This year marked over one million Jared Boxes made in all 50 states and given to children in more than 500 hospitals.
More than 200 community members, sponsors, volunteers, Jared Box recipients and healthcare providers gathered on August 6 to celebrate this remarkable milestone. During the “One Million Smiles Celebration,” guests assembled 250 Jared Boxes that will be given to children at Mount Nittany Health, Geisinger and Penn Highlands Healthcare.

The Jared Box Project is a nonprofit organization that aims to bring joy and smiles to children in hospitals across the country. Jared Boxes are plastic shoe boxes filled with small gifts, toys, cards, games, and other fun activities. These boxes are made by local community groups and given to children in emergency rooms, hospital rooms, surgical centers, and clinics.

The project was started in 2001 by the children of Our Lady of Victory School in State College to honor their classmate, Jared, who battled cancer with courage and faith.
Jared was diagnosed with an incurable brainstem tumor in 1999. He carried a backpack full of toys and games to all appointments and questioned why the other children didn’t bring toys to their exam rooms. Jared shared his toys and invited the other children to join him in a game of UNO. At just five years old, he demonstrated faith, wisdom, and compassion for others.

After Jared passed away, his classmates decided to honor him by creating Jared Boxes. The school children made 81 Jared Boxes for the children at Geisinger Janet Weis Children’s Hospital in Danville, Pennsylvania. Soon after that, other community groups started making Jared Boxes. They picked up where Jared left off and shared toys with children in the hospital.

This wave of kindness quickly took off and spread across the country. The Jared Box organization connects hospitals throughout the country with local community groups (Scouts, Kiwanis, Rotary, schools, churches, universities, businesses, and other civic
groups) to make the boxes in each area. Thousands of groups have made Jared boxes for hospitals in their own communities.

“Just imagine, one million smiles, all inspired by the kindness of one little boy. It truly is such a beautiful story that showcases the kindness of others,” explained Cindy Kolarik, Executive Director of The Jared Box Project. “We felt it was important to commemorate this extraordinary milestone with a celebration! While thousands of volunteers from across the country played a part in this joyous achievement and Jared Box is nationally recognized, we felt it was important to revisit where it all began—at Jared’s elementary school.”

Jared’s mother, Ruth McMullen, shared, “The Jared Box Million Smile Celebration was
incredible. The joy and love of every volunteer permeated the gym. This was definitely the happiest place in Happy Valley!”

“The outpouring of support we have received from sponsors and volunteers is truly
heartwarming. It was an amazing event and we are excited to begin working on making one million more Jared Boxes,” added Kolarik.