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Southwest Orange Wednesday, Apr. 10, 2019 2 years ago

Keene's Crossing student helps homeless with Spark Hope initiative

Keene’s Crossing second-grader Lucy DiCocco’s love for others is leading her on a journey to help the homeless.
by: Danielle Hendrix Associate Editor

At just 8 years old, Lucy DiCocco’s big heart for helping people is sparking hope in those around her.

Lucy, a second-grader at Keene’s Crossing Elementary, is the mastermind behind Spark Hope, a movement created to help the homeless and spark hope in downtown Orlando.

Through donations and sales of things such as homemade dog biscuits and earrings, Lucy raises money to put together care packages, which she then hands out at Lake Eola.

It all started back in 2017, Lucy said, when she and her mom were at PetSmart; the store was collecting donations of stuffed animals for foster children.

“The lady asked us if we wanted to donate to foster children, I think it was, and we said sure,” Lucy said. “Then when we got in the car I was like, ‘What are foster children?’ And my mom said it’s kids that don’t have a mommy or daddy, and I just started crying. Then my mom was like, ‘Do you want to do something for the homeless or something?’ And I said yes.”

It was an unexpected situation and resulted in some tough questions from Lucy that her mother, Bonnie DiCocco, had to answer.

“It was a $5 stuffed animal, and we gave it to them, and I didn’t think twice about it,” said Bonnie, who also owns Driftwood Market in downtown Winter Garden. “By the time we got to the car she was asking lots of questions, like ‘What’s a child in need?’ and ‘Why are there children in need?’ and ‘Why doesn’t Santa Claus give presents to everybody?’ So we talked about it and by the time we left PetSmart she was crying, and I was crying. That’s when we just said, ‘Let’s do something good.’” 

Bonnie DiCocco helped Lucy come up with a plan of action, and Lucy decided she wanted to help the homeless by collecting donations of toiletries and basic necessities to hand out at Lake Eola in downtown Orlando.

Many of the DiCoccos’ neighbors will donate travel toiletries or whatever is needed, Bonnie said.  Lucy’s teachers and classmates at Keene’s Crossing Elementary also have gotten involved. She has talked to her class about her mission, and her teacher spread the word to the rest of the school and administration. 

When it comes to financial contributions and fundraising to buy the supplies to hand out, though, Bonnie lets Lucy take the reins — with some guidance along the way.

“I think it’s important that she gets to pick because these people are donating their money to her,” Bonnie said. “She is out here busting her booty, a lot of times, during the events we do. She’ll stand out front of the store and ask for donations, she sold dog biscuits at Christmastime … because she puts all the work in I let her purchase with the money what she sees fit, along with a bit of guidance.”

Lucy has sold dog biscuits, solicited donations and even sold earrings during Winter Garden’s Spring Fever in the Garden event to raise funds for Spark Hope.

“My mommy asked me yesterday (last) night what I was going to do with all the money that I make, and I said I was going to donate it to Spark Hope,” Lucy said during the event.

At first, they would have bagging parties and put together bags of toiletries and such before handing them out to the homeless. Recently, they began taking a wagon filled with different bins. Lucy sorts each donation into its appropriate bin, and people are given a bag and the option to fill it with whatever they might need.

“We usually pass out snacks, waters, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, razors, shaving cream, and this last time we did wipes,” Lucy said. “They love socks and blankets, even though it’s still warm. … It makes me feel really happy, because I like helping people, especially the poor.”

Care packages sometimes have a theme — such as dental care or winter supplies — but Lucy and her mom collect both monetary and toiletry donations all year. Those who wish to contribute can bring donations to Driftwood Market, or can reach out to Bonnie via the Spark Hope Facebook and Instagram pages.

“We just came into a situation and at that point as a mom I wasn’t prepared with answers, so my solution was, let’s do something good,” Bonnie said. “She loves to help, she loves to do, she loves to give. There was no forethought that went into it, it’s all been after the fact. She’s amazing. She’s caring and helpful.

“I didn’t know that we would keep doing that something, but it’s so awesome, so fun and so many people wanted to help that we just kept doing it,” Bonnie said.

Danielle Hendrix is the Associate Editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. She is a 2015 graduate of the University of Central Florida, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in journalism with a minor in world comparative studies. ...

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