By Colin Foster
PIQUA — ‘Tis the season of giving — and at only eight years of age, Piqua resident Savannah Swanson understands that.
Savannah’s journey started on Springcreek Elementary’s first snow day back in early December. Unlike a typical 8-year-old, Savannah didn’t spend her day off going sledding or making snow angels — instead, she came up with an idea to give back to area children who were forced to spend Christmas away from home.
“I just thought it would be a good idea to give to a charity, because some kids can’t be home for the holidays,” Savannah said. “I thought it would be fun to (give) to a charity.”
After getting a scarf-making kit on her day off of school, Savannah decided to make scarves and sell them to raise money to purchase toys for children in hospitals. Marion Swanson, Savannah’s mother, posted a photo of Savannah making scarves on Facebook and called around the area in search a charity they could assist.
“I thought I should make them for all my friends at school and for my teachers, and then I thought I could make them for people at the hospital,” Savannah said.
“She scares me to be honest,” said Marion jokingly. “She comes up with ideas like this and I can’t say no to her. I kind of had to go outside of my comfort level (to get the project going).”
The idea for “Scarves for Smiles” was born — and it’s something the family hopes they can keep going in the future.
Savannah raised around $400 selling scarves to family members and friends, teachers and people on the street, while her parents, including father Kevin, sold scarves to co-workers. The idea caught on quickly, and people gave donations ranging from $5 to $200. After raising the money, Savannah went shopping for the presents at Cairns Toys in Tipp City, which gave her a 20-percent discount on items in the toy store.
Savannah’s first choice was Children’s Hospital, but it turned out Children’s had a lot going on around the holiday season. So the family searched for other charity outlets in the area that they could help with. Troy’s Franklin House was the recipient of the gifts, while the Piqua Compassion Network received a financial donation.
“She just knows she’s blessed,” Marion said. “She’s been like this since she was little. She’s my one child that wants to give at Christmas. My kids didn’t didn’t even want anything for Christmas this year.”
That last statement maybe wasn’t entirely true — every child wants something for Christmas.
The Swanson family has three children, including a 16-year old and a 4-year old boy. Savannah said she didn’t get the books she wanted, but she did get a rabbit, which she named “Pez.”
“I named it that because he’s like a Pez Dispenser,” Savannah said with a laugh.
“We’ve had so many people with different kind of reception for this,” Marion said. “We had a cousin down in Florida order a scarf, and when she got them, she told us that the scarves are amazingly simple to make and what a good idea it was.”
The cousin also said she was going to start a similar charity in Florida inspired by Savannah’s idea.
“She said she was going to give Savannah all the credit and send her money, but we’re going to start doing this down in Florida,” Marion said.”So she’s sort of spawned a bit of a trickle down affect.”
And Marion said she is hoping this project will be even bigger by this time next year.
“With the combination of ideas and thought processes over the next year, by next Christmas we’re hoping it will be much bigger,” she said. “A lot of her friends can make scarves, we’re already talking to kids at her school. The local moms that I know, her friends mothers, are willing to help and can do it.”
To find out how more about Scarves for Smiles, find Marion Swanson on Facebook.