On one level, the annual “CJ’s Christmas Project” in Carroll County is nothing less than a family choosing the option to become better by helping others in the wake of a tragedy. Participation keeps growing in the fifth year of the effort as the community volunteers carry the torch.
Yearly, the family of Carroll County Schools Gifted Specialist Shanda Sinnett collects toys at Christmas time through the Carroll County Public School Division under the name of CJ’s Christmas Project for the Carroll Christmas Fund. This year Shannon Dalton and the Interact Club (and Yearbook staff) at the high school stepped up to help with the delivery of the boxes and toy pick up.
Sinnett explained that On Nov. 18, 2011 her nine-and-a-half month old grandson, CJ (Channing James), died in a tragic accident at the babysitter’s house in Christiansburg. She said her family was devastated and in shock, following the loss of her husband, James, less than five months before to cancer. At first the unexpected death seemed too much to handle for the family.
Just days after CJ’s death, there was an administrator’s meeting at the central office. Several administrators discussed what they could do to help the family. The family asked donations be made to a toy drive in lieu of flowers. The administrators took it upon themselves to put out boxes in their schools and solicit toy donations. The first year there were more than 400 toys donated.
That was the beginning of CJ’s Christmas Project. Those same gift boxes have been saved and continue to be used today. Boxes are set out at schools, the bus garage, the physical plant and central office. Next, emails are sent to the CCPSD staff for donations.
“They amaze us with their generosity,” said Sinnett. “This project has served our community through the Carroll Christmas Fund and helped our family get through an emotionally challenging time. We are very grateful for their help and the benevolence of the CCPSD staff.”
This is the first year CCHS Interact Club member Megan Gallimore has participated in CJ’s project. She said she became involved because she simply loves to help people and loves to see the recipients of the Christmas gifts. Gallimore said the CCHS Rotary Interact Club is active in service projects throughout the year including food drives.
Dillon Turman is a member of Interact and the Year Book staff. Other members present to pack the boxes Friday joked his “willingness to donate his gas money” for the cause (travel between schools to maintain the collection boxes) made him a natural for the project.
“I just like to give back,” said Turman. “Last year I helped pack boxes at the VFW. It’s a great experience. You get to help kids that might not otherwise have Christmas.”
Yearbook Sponsor Shannon Dalton pointed out the murder of WDBJ Television photographer Adam Ward compelled Yearbook Publisher Steve Kent (who had worked with Ward) to challenge schools to find a community project.
“Schools were challenged to find a project to make the community better,” said Dalton. “It was a good fit. It’s about making something better out of what happened. This is just what CJ’s Project is about. People bought toys they would want. I had folks come by my room with shopping bags full of toys. I’m impressed these toys were bought with a purpose.”
She said more than 450 toys had been donated.
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave.