Worth Recognizing: Community Members Who Go Above & Beyond

The Garnsey Sisters: They prove that giving can start at a very young age.

Eleven-year-old Reagan Garnsey and her 7-year-old sister, Payton, may be the youngest fundraisers in Delaware.

In June 2017, the Dover residents founded Buckets of Love Foundation (BOLF), a non-profit that raises funds to purchase crafts, toys, and games to stuff in buckets donated to children ages 2-12 facing hard times, including sickness and homelessness in Delaware and throughout the country. Since then, they have raised thousands of dollars to bring smiles to children’s faces.

Says Reagan, who originated the idea: “The buckets help distract them from a situation they don’t want to be in. If I were in a situation I don’t want to be in, receiving a Bucket of Love would take my mind off of what’s happening.”

Since its inception, BOLF has donated 720 buckets to hospitals and organizations in Delaware and 1,890 throughout the country. The sisters have raised approximately $8,000 through bake sales, raffles, toy drives, and donations and help from friends, family, schools, and organizations and businesses.

Some organizations in Delaware that have received buckets are the Dover Air Force Base Youth, a program for kids with a deployed parent, Boys & Girls Club of Delaware, and Shepherd Place, a homeless shelter in Dover.

“What Reagan and Payton have done is nothing short of extraordinary,” says Grace Carr, community liaison at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington. “[They] have worked so hard to make a difference for children in need. Their efforts have already helped hundreds of our patients.”

Reagan’s parents saw her giving nature at age 4 when she told them she wanted to set up a lemonade stand. She subsequently raised $200 and donated it to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer. Since then, the summertime lemonade stand has raised more than $6,000 for the organization.

In second grade, Reagan started a knitting club at Holy Cross School in Dover, where she and her classmates knitted more than 1,200 hats to give to adult cancer patients.

“Giving, to her, is very natural,” says Reagan’s mom, Angela, a state trooper who helped Reagan get the non-profit going and watched as Reagan honed her social media skills. “They inspire us,” say Reagan’s dad, Brian, a corporate aircraft pilot.

The sisters have accepted several awards and recognitions, including the 2018 Governor’s Award. They also won the Jefferson Awards Foundation’s (JAF) LEAD360 Challenge. LEAD360 asks youth nationwide to submit project ideas that improve lives. In February, out of five finalists, BOLF was voted the winner.

After a winner is chosen, JAF replicates it in other states by partnering with organizations and businesses, says JAF National Director Michele Fidance. Currently, five states are running Buckets of Love projects and several others have committed. Delaware institutions replicating it include The Buccini/Pollin Group and the City of Wilmington.

When the sisters see the children they give to, which is not often, they say it keeps them going. “Their smiles make me happy because it connects the dots of all the hard work we do,” says Reagan. “Giving to others is about the feeling you get when you help someone.”

Adds Payton: “Seeing the children’s faces makes me really, really, really happy.”

For information on BOLF, go to: bucketsoflove.us, Facebook; @bucketsoflovehq, Twitter, or #GivingBackOneBucketAtATime.

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