Some measures of kindness inspire a movement of community support. Jayden Daniel of Eatonton, Georgia, an 8th grader at Georgia Military College Prep School, initiated an Easter basket project for some very deserving foster care children. Amid a global health crisis, Jayden inspired people to come together and renew the hope of children living in uncertain and often difficult circumstances.
Easter represents a season of spiritual renewal, and the outpouring of community support was astounding. “The project was a success! Friends and neighbors offered 110 Easter baskets to the Department of Children and Family Services in Putnam, Jasper, and Baldwin counties,” he says. “Though COVID-19 may delay the delivery of the baskets, it did not stop the generosity of people.”
Jayden mobilized the effort when the realization came that some children in the foster care system miss out on normal childhood experiences. Through the Never Too Late Foster Home Facebook page, “I learned about an 18-year-old who had never celebrated a birthday,” he recalls. “This post and others about kids moving from place to place hit me emotionally.”
“What Jayden is doing is indeed inspiring,” says Dr. John DeGarmo, child advocate and author of The Little Book of Foster Care Wisdom: 365 Days of Inspiration and Encouragement for Foster Care Families. “Not everyone can be a foster parent, yet Jayden is reminding us that everyone can help a child in foster care in some way. During this time of the novel coronavirus and self-containment, more children are experiencing abuse and neglect in their homes. Along with this, child predators are using the Coronavirus to target even more children in their homes. We have a shortage of foster care homes yet more children are and will flood into foster care. It is through people like Jayden that we can all help to bring comfort and love to children in crisis.”
Hope and Kindness in Easter Baskets
Though Jayden has already served his community more than 100 hours, he felt the need to do more. After brainstorming with his mom Shannon Daniel about different ways to help foster youth in his home county, they reached out to Janna Waddell with the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) in Putnam and Jasper counties.
“Children look forward to waking up on Easter morning and finding a basket full of candy and goodies or participating in an egg hunt. We ended up deciding that kids in foster care would really like a basket because it would be a special gift to brighten their Easter. For many, it may be the first Easter basket they’ve ever received,” says Jayden.
Project logistics came together quickly. “In many ways, we based the project off Samaritan’s Purse shoebox ministry. We came up with a list of suggested items and used group planning website Signup.com for individuals to be matched with a child based on the county’s needs,” Jayden explains. His mom introduced the idea to neighbors on Jayden’s behalf through her personal Facebook page and the community news sharing site Next Door.
“When we started, my goal was to provide between 25-50 baskets for youth in Putnam and Jasper Counties. My mom’s Facebook post went live on February 18. That next morning when we woke up, we had 22 commitments. By the 20th we had nearly all the commitments for Putnam and Jasper filled,” Jayden notes. “Because the campaign was so successful and the Facebook marketing was easy, I decided we should add Baldwin county where I go to school. Baldwin was a little more of a challenge as they have approximately 75 youth in out-of-home placements. We connected with DCFS and Jennifer Crowell to make the arrangements.”
A long-time community volunteer, Jayden has donated his time to Second Harvest Food Bank in Greensboro, Wreaths Across America and Boy Scouts of America. He notes, “Just this past October, I finished up my Eagle Scout project in which I lead a team of peers in the construction and installation of six bat boxes for Rock Eagle 4-H Center in Putnam County.”
Though his high school years may be ahead of him, Jayden has already set a goal for his future. Next year’s Easter basket project hopes to expand to include foster children in Greene and Morgan counties. This project has touched his heart and shifted his long-term personal goals. He says proudly, “I would like to continue to be involved with helping foster kids.”
Rick Daniel is Jayden’s father. “To witness the outpouring of support for Jayden’s project has been overwhelming to us all,” he says. “Each basket was filled with love, creativity and thoughtfulness. You can only think of how just one act of kindness can influence someone to greatness. We will never see the fruit of this act of kindness but believe that God will see it through.”
Editor’s Note: For more information on how you can become a foster parent or lend support to local efforts, please visit the Georgia Department of Human Service Division of Children and Family Services. Learn more about the advocacy work of the Foster Care Institute and Dr. John DeGarmo.