It was a proud day for Project EXTRA on March 19, as the group’s 49 Oceanside sixth-graders presented a year’s worth of community service.
Inspired by Susan Verde’s children’s book “I Am Human,” the gifted learners program raised $10,550 for the Limb Kind Foundation, which donates prosthetics to children with limb loss in the U.S. and internationally.
The morning was not only a presentation about the students’ work, “but a celebration of what passion unleashed looks like,” Project EXTRA teacher Angela Abend told the room of family and community members.
“This entire endeavor was their doing — every decision crafted from their hearts and from their minds,” Abend said of the students. “When this group decided to make a difference, they most certainly did, and I made sure I got out of their way.”
Among applause, tears and colorful balloons and banners that brightened the room, each elementary school presented a slideshow about its Project EXTRA work — with every student contributing a slide. The event also honored special guests, which included Verde, Limb Kind Foundation founder Robert Schulman and the organization’s child ambassador, Logan Passe.
Each school contributed to the project in a different way. For example, some students donated goody bags with matchbox cars and Beanie Babies, as well as copies of “I Am Human” translated into Creole, to 22 children in Haiti receiving prostheses from the foundation.
It was all made possible by several fundraisers the children organized, including a Bloxels Blowout event at Barnes & Noble in Carle Place in December, when they demonstrated the “build-your-own-videogame” platform to younger kids, and a Super Smash Bros. tournament, in which they played the video game with peers to raise money for a Microsoft adaptive Xbox controller, which they donated to Limb Kind to give to a child with limb differences.
Students also represented the Limb Kind Foundation at various events in the school district, selling wristbands and collecting donations.
Throughout the journey, Project EXTRA students formed close relationships with Passe and Schulman. Passe joined students in a virtual book club through an online service called Flipboard. They discussed the children’s book “Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus,” which features a main character with limb loss. The book’s author, Dusti Bowling, even sent a video answering students’ questions about the book.
In addition, students participated in a workshop with Schulman during the year to digitally create an adaptive bicycle handlebar extension to be 3D-printed and used at Camp No Limits, which is for children with limb loss and limb difference.
“Project EXTRA kids, you are all the most amazing ambassadors to Limb Kind, and I cannot be any prouder of the hard work you’ve done,” Schulman said when he took the lectern. “Together we’ll make huge impacts in the lives of many children.”
At the event, Passe presented Project EXTRA students with a decorated poster board that read, “Dear Project EXTRA, I am proud to call you my friends. I am inspired by your hard work in raising awareness for those in need. Thank you my gifted friends. Love, Logan P.”
Town of Hempstead Councilman Anthony D’Esposito, Assistant Superintendent Diane Provvido and social studies director Mitch Bickman all offered remarks acknowledging Project EXTRA’s work and significant contributions.
After the ceremony, students celebrated with lunch, photo-ops and a book signing with Verde.
“I put a lot of thought and care into the messages of my books before I send them out into the world,” Verde said. “When kids especially take those messages and put them to action … it’s really a huge honor. This is what every author dreams and hopes for.”