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October 14, 2018

Stories of people giving to others from the heart are always touching, antidotes to selfishness in our society. The beauty of such a gesture is multiplied many fold when a child shows the way.

Callie Koons of Mountain Top has shown the way, offering an example of a youngster living a life of love for others. Callie turned her 10th birthday party into a collection of gifts for ailing youngsters. “Kids (in the hospital) go through a lot. I wanted to make them feel better,’’ Callie said. This tale begins when Callie, riding in the family car with her parents, Greg and Maria Koons, of Rice Twp., and pondering her upcoming birthday, proclaimed that she has everything she needs and she would rather donate her birthday presents to someone in need. Maria Koons said the family researched its options and Callie decided on the Janet Weis Children’s Hospital in Danville, as recipient of the gifts. “Prior to Callie’s birthday party, we were able to connect with the hospital staff, which provided a list of items that were needed for the patients. Callie advised friends of the plan to donate gifts to hospital patients in lieu of presents to Callie and a wish list of possible gifts was included with the party invitations.’’ Maria said. The invitations noted that “your present is your presence.” Callie’s family held a spa birthday party at home and her friends gave “very generous donations,’’ Greg Koons said. The family arranged a time to deliver the presents to Janet Weis Children’s Hospital and the staff was “extremely appreciative of Callie’s generosity,’’ Greg said. Unfortunately, because of the nature of illnesses and isolation issues, Callie was unable to visit with patients. However, the hospital gave the family a tour of the hospital and took pictures of her with the donations. Meanwhile, dolls, books, balls and other gifts were handed out by staff. On the way home, Callie chose The Olive Garden as a birthday dinner location. “We are very proud of her selflessness and kind heart. She has helped us to remember the importance of being kind to others,’’ Maria Koons said. Callie is a fifth grade student at Rice Elementary School in the Crestwood School District. The soft-spoken youngster plays soccer and field hockey and is a Junior Girl Scout in the troop at Rice Elementary. She also participates in Sunday school. Even at a young age, Callie is focusing on special education as a career goal. Teaching as a career runs in the family: mom is a middle school science teacher in the Weatherly Area School District and dad is executive director of Intermediate Unit 29 in Schuylkill County.

Greg’s mother, Dorothy Koons, was a special education teacher at Meyers High School in Wilkes-Barre. Dubbed “the cookie specialist’’ by the family, she is singled out as “an inspiration’’ for Callie as is her grandfather, Maria’s father, John Sciandra, who taught English in the Roxbury, N.J., schools. Callie has a brother. Ian, 15, and a sister, Morgan, 13, both students in Crestwood School District. Rigby, the dog, and Luna, the cat, round out the “family.’’