A senior at Roland-Story is using her J-Term project to pay it forward. Natalie Tryon is collecting donations of toys and money to provide gifts to kids at Blank Children's Hospital in Des Moines.

Tryon herself was the beneficiary of a similar act of kindness when she was in the hospital for several weeks the summer before her junior year.

“I was out of state and far from family and friends,” Tryon said. “And one day my nurse came in and told me that two former patients were there. Abbie and Pia had been there because of cancer and diabetes.”

The two girls had created Pabs Packs, which at the time were totes filled with a soft blanket, lotion and little notes.

“This act of kindness made me smile,” Tryon said. “And it made other kids in the hospital smile too. I loved Abbie and Pia idea to spreading happiness when times are tough.”

When Tryon recovered and returned home, she decided to donate gift to children at Blank. So for her junior year J-Term project, she decided to collect donations from the community. And the community really stepped up.

“Last year, I was so fortunate for the amazing help from the community,” she said. “I was able to donate more than 600 toys and other items to the kids at Blank.”

This year, Pia and Abbie have donated 20 Pabs Packs, each a $50 value.

“We've become good friends,” Tryon said. “Their Pabs Packs have grown to include the blanks, lotion, chapstick, a big stuffed penguin and some other things. I still remember how happy I was to get that soft, plush blanket. I still use it every day.”

Tryon doesn't deliver the gifts to the kids at Blank herself, due to medical privacy regulations, but she takes them to the nurses, who deliver them from room to room in a little red wagon.

“I try to think about the different age groups,” she said. “I love to get cozy blankets and baby pajamas, Barbies for the little girls, movies and big blankets and gift cards for the older kids.”

Tryon has been collecting donations of new toys from members of the community and she's taken over a whole room in her home. Natalie is the daughter of Tim and Kim Tryon; her brother, Zach, and sister, Nicole, are students at UNI.

“There are toys covering the ping pong table,” Tryon said. She's also taking cash donations and is purchasing items for donation. Anyone interested in donating can contact her at natalie_tryon@roland-s tory.k12.ia.us.

“I'm so thankful for the help from everybody,” she said. “I have a filing system so that I can write thank yous.”

Next year, Tryon will attend Luther College. She wants to become a nurse in pediatrics or oncology.

“I am hoping to affect more kids,” she said.