Evergreen students donate toys to kids around the world

Whether they are thrown out, given away or stored in a box up in the attic, saying goodbye to a beloved toy is not easy.

Whether they are thrown out, given away or stored in a box up in the attic, saying goodbye to a beloved toy is not easy.

But students at Evergreen Junior High School (EJH) in Redmond are doing just that as they are donating their old playthings — and other items — to help children around the world.

For the past month or so, the seventh and eighth graders in Kathie May’s language arts and social studies classes at EJH have been collecting toys, basic school supplies and personal items to send to children in orphanages in developing countries through Helping and Loving Orphans (HALO), a Seattle-based nonprofit that works with orphanages in Vietnam, Colombia, Afghanistan and Mexico.

“I wanted my kids to have a viable project to do, something outside the classroom,” May said, adding that she wanted the project to go beyond the local community as well.


The idea for the HALO Project came after the organization’s founder Betty Tisdale came to EJH and spoke to a few of May’s classes in November. The 89-year-old Seattle resident spoke about how her humanitarian work began when she met Tom Dooley, a doctor who provided care for the sick and homeless in Southeast Asia. Tisdale didn’t have a medical background but offered her secretarial skills.

“I just became immersed in the work he was doing,” she said.

Dooley died of cancer at 34, but Tisdale continued his work by helping maintain his clinics in that part of the world. She also helped fundraise for the An Lac Orphanage in Saigon, South Vietnam. She made her first of 28 trips to Southeast Asia in 1961 and whenever she was there, she would help take care of the children in the orphanage and teach them English.

In 1975, the dangers of war led Tisdale and her colleagues at An Lac to evacuate the orphanage. There were 219 children 10 years old or younger evacuated to the United States and Tisdale worked until each one had been adopted — it took one month.

Tisdale continued to fundraise in the following years before she founded HALO in July 2000.

“She was just so amazing,” said Surina Taing about Tisdale.

The 14-year-old is an eighth grader in one of May’s language arts classes and said she was impressed by Tisdale’s commitment to these children and how considerate she was of others.


Because Tisdale’s visit to EJH was during the holiday season and students were already working on other service projects, May said she wanted to wait a few months before presenting another one. But when she did, her students were very excited.

“I thought it was really nice to contribute to society and help care for other people,” Surina said.

All month, May’s classroom has been home to toys — including an impressive collection of Beanie Babies — school supplies and personal items.

“It was really sweet how some of the kids really did go through and clean out things they didn’t need anymore,” May said about her students’ enthusiasm.

“Dooley bags,” which were used to place everything in so the children at the orphanages would have something to hold their things, also dominated May’s classroom.

May said her students — and EJH staff, who got just as excited and involved in the HALO Project — collected enough toys and items for 67 bags. These bags will go with Tisdale on her next trip to HALO orphanages abroad to be distributed among the children. They sewed a total of 114 bags, so the remaining 47 bags will go to Tisdale to be filled for future trips.

The bags were made by students like Surina, who would take fabric home and sew it together for the final product. Surina had some help from her mother and admitted that it took a few days for her to get the hang of the sewing machine.

Surina said this was one of the things she really enjoyed about the HALO Project: In addition to helping children around the world, she has been able to spend more time with her mother.


Seventh-grader Adam Hasenyager didn’t help with sewing the bags, but he did bring in some of his old toys, including a few Hot Wheel cars. The 13-year-old admitted that it was a little difficult to give away his toys but found comfort in the fact that other children would be playing with them — especially since he no longer did.

“I really liked that idea,” he said. “(The Hot Wheels) just kind of hang around my room now.”

Both he and Surina said it is important for people — especially young people — to know and understand what is going on around the world because it may prompt them to help.

Tisdale said she loves seeing students like Adam, Surina and their classmates get excited about helping because it makes her feel good that others will continue her work after she’s gone, just as she continued Dooley’s work after he died.

“That is why I love to go and speak at schools,” Tisdale said. “They just need to be touched. Their lives are changed just like mine.”