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FIS youth trades ropes for toys

By collecting and donating toys, one Farragut Intermedi-ate School fourth-grader proves you don’t have to be an adult to make a difference in someone’s life.

Brianna Smart collected toy donations at FIS and gave them to Fort Sanders Educational Development Center, a Knox County public school that serves mostly special needs preschoolers. In exchange for a toy donation, students were given jump ropes. Smart called it “Jump for Toys,” a twist on the phrase “jump for joy,” and collected 74 toys in a single week.

“Brianna did nearly all the work to make ‘Jump for Toys’ happen,” Mindy Smart, Brianna’s mother, said. Adding, Brianna worked hard to achieve her goal.

She asked Gables and Gates Realtors to donate money so she could purchase jump ropes. Brianna wrote a letter to U-Haul about donating boxes, though Mindy admitted it was she who actually called the office because Brianna was in school; but it was Brianna who created a flyer to include in her school newsletter so everyone would know about “Jump for Toys.”

Brianna’s generosity and hard work was contagious. Though her friends thought the idea was great, Brianna said initially they “didn’t think I’d be able to do it.” It wasn’t long, however, before they were helping her by donating toys and distributing flyers.

“Jump for Toys” quickly became a family affair. Brianna’s parents, Mindy, Bill and brother, Jack, took turns collecting toys in the morning as students were dropped off. Jack went with her to distribute the toys.

Minday said, “The great thing is [Jack’s] asking how he can help the school,” now that the toy drive is over.

Brianna said distributing the toys “was a lot of fun,” and her brother agreed.

The Smart family said they hope “Jump for Toys” raises the community’s awareness and support from the staff of Fort Sander’s Educational Develop-ment Center.

“It is the staff that makes the school special,” Mindy said. “Few people know about Fort Sanders Educational Development Center. It wasn’t until my family needed the service that we found out about it.”

McCord, Brianna’s 3-year-old brother, has an auditory processing disorder and is doing well since attending the school.

School officials told Brianna the toys would be distributed accordingly to all classrooms, so it is likely that some of them will find their way to help her little brother.

“Many of the donated toys were educational,” Mindy said. “But even if they aren’t, they still might be able to help. For example, “the toys that made noise will be great for visually-impaired children.”

Brianna volunteered in the past at Fort Sanders Educational Development Center. The idea for “Jump for Toys” came to her after reading an article in American Girl magazine. The article discussed various charitable fund-raising that other girls have


Fort Sanders Educational Development Center serves children with special educational needs from all over Knox County. Most students attending the school are 3-to-5-years-old and attend half days.

Brianna said she would continue “Jump for Toys” next school year and plans to collect toys again next fall, just before fall break.


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