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A heart with a mission

Conway fourth-grader collects toys for Arkansas Children’s Hospital

By Tammy Keith

This article was published December 22, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.


Mary Melton, 9, a fourth-grader at Jim Stone Elementary School in Conway, stands with toys collected through a project she spearheaded called Mary’s Mission for Adam’s Army. Mary said she saw a video about patients at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock and decided to ask students to bring toys and books to donate to the kids.

Mary Melton, a fourth-grader at Jim Stone Elementary School in Conway, decided to help patients at Arkansas Children’s Hospital have a happier Christmas this year.

“My mom showed me this video of kids at the children’s hospital in Little Rock, and most of them are sick, so they couldn’t get out of their beds,” Mary said.

“I had this feeling in my heart that I needed to do something for them,” she said.

Mary knew that some of the children wouldn’t be home for Christmas, so she decided to collect toys for them.

The 9-year-old formed Mary’s Mission for Adam’s Army.

Jim Stone Principal Mark Lewis said he’s impressed with Mary, whose mother, Brooke, is a first-grade teacher at the school.

“It’s just over-the-top exciting to see,” Lewis said. “This whole thing started in 2008 when my son was diagnosed with leukemia, and we started Adam’s Army.

“We do teach our kids the importance of philanthropy, so we benefit organizations locally, statewide, nationally and even internationally. Children’s Hospital is one of our main philanthropies.

“For a child to take it on herself — to take it to the next level instead of the adult — that means that it’s working,” Lewis said.

“When Adam’s Army started, we never thought it would branch off this big.”

Adam, 8, is doing well now, Lewis said.

Mary made the announcement about Mary’s Mission during a school “character assembly,” Lewis said.

It is being coordinated through Starla Gresham, the school’s gifted-and-talented-education teacher.

Mary said the goal was 200 toys or books.

“We have a bunch,” she said. “We’re almost maybe to 200.”

Lewis said Arkansas Children’s Hospital has a toy drive this time of year, “and we have participated in it before, but it was when Adam was first diagnosed, so it was fresh on everybody’s minds.”

That drive was spearheaded by an adult, though, not a fourth-grader, Lewis said.

“It’s neat to see that people haven’t forgotten that a positive can come out of a negative,” he said.

Mary said she plans to go with her principal, her parents and her 11-year-old sister to take the toys to the hospital.

“It makes me feel good,” Mary said.

Melissa Wolfe, assistant director of the volunteer services department at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, said staff will be happy to meet Mary and her family and accept the toys.

Wolfe said donations of new toys are accepted year-round.

“We use those for patients here on the holidays, or for special occasions, like on their birthdays, or if they’re having a special celebration for a last treatment,” she said.

Wolfe said Mary’s project is “very sweet.”

“At this time of year, when kids are typically thinking about what they’re going to get during the holidays, it’s very special to help others. We feel very honored that they chose us to donate to,” Wolfe said.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or


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