As part of a service learning project at his school, Holt adoptee Jake Schunke uses his love of hockey to raise funds for orphaned and abandoned children in Korea.
On September 24, 2004, we welcomed home our first child from Ulsan City, South Korea — a boy we named Jake. When he came off the plane, a relative of his escort pulled my husband aside and whispered in his ear, “He is a wise old soul.”
Jake is a third grader now. He is a smart, compassionate kid with one main love — hockey. When Jake was in preschool, he would use everything — blocks, playdough, markers — to create a hockey arena. He would make his classmates or friends stand while he sang both the U.S. and Canadian national anthems. Always a determined little kid, he learned to skate as a young toddler and now plays goalie for the New Jersey Youth Devils hockey club.
We live in the suburbs of New Jersey, where our kids attend Brunner Elementary School. As part of a grade-wide service learning project, the third graders embarked on a mission to help others who need companionship. The class identified and discussed different groups who may be in need. After their teacher, Mrs. Pincus, read them a child’s story about a community coming together to help those in need — Give a Goat by Jan Schrock — Jake’s class was determined to raise enough money to help struggling families. Some students held bake sales, while others donated money from their allowances.
Inspired by the book and his classmates’ efforts, Jake came home from school with an idea. He wanted to organize a fundraising event that combined his desire to help others with his favorite sport, hockey. He simulated a game often held between periods in NHL arenas across North America, called Super Score O. In Super Score O, participants try to shoot a puck into the net from a set distance. It’s not an easy game for any adult, let alone a third grader! Despite an early heat wave in New Jersey, friends came out in droves to participate in Score O. All together, his class raised $892.94, of which Jake and his Score O teams contributed $330.
We weren’t surprised when Jake wanted to incorporate a hockey theme into helping others, but we were surprised by how much money he was able to raise. We were even more surprised when we heard whom the money would benefit.
When Jake’s class was deciding where to donate the money, Jake told them about Holt International, the agency through which we adopted him and his sister, Chloe. After he shared how Holt helps orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children all over the world, Mrs. Pincus’ third grade class decided to donate half the money they raised to Holt. As a special way to honor Jake, the class felt the money should go specifically towards the South Korea program! Of the $450 donated to Holt, more than $300 will help children in Korea who need cleft lip and palate surgeries, or surgeries for a congenital heart condition. The rest will help support children living in foster care.
Holt’s foster care program in Korea holds a special place in our hearts. Both Jake and Chloe were privileged to live in foster care while they were in Korea. They received the unconditional love and care that is vital to a child’s healthy development. Words cannot express how grateful we are to these selfless families who care for these babies as if they were their own. The love Jake received in foster care helped shape him into the loving and compassionate boy he is today.
We couldn’t be more proud of Jake, his amazing classmates, and his extraordinary teacher, Mrs. Pincus, who helped teach such an invaluable lesson. She taught her students that altruism and generosity can make the world a better place, and that wisdom can come from anyone, at any age.
Christine Schunke | Scotch Plains, New Jersey
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