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November 12, 2013

Youngster pulls wild onions for babies

At 25 cents per bag, voluminous plant sales help families with newborns in the NICU cover expenses

TERRE HAUTE — Justin Strole quietly toured the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Union Hospital on Monday morning.

With guidance from family friend and NICU nurse Jennifer Jaeger, 8-year-old Justin learned about the care that each baby gets in the special unit.

His own brother, Dylan, now age 5, spent his first couple of days at birth in the NICU because of low blood sugar. Dylan is fine now, and he took the NICU tour with his brother and his parents, Dawn and Chris Strole.

The reason for the tour was so that Justin could see some of the babies he is helping.

Since May, Justin has been conducting his own fundraiser to help families who have a baby in the NICU. His contributions go to the NICU Family Assistance Fund, which alleviates expenses by providing gas and meal cards and assisting with motel expenses.

So far, he has raised $265.55. And on Monday, Justin “wrote a check” and gave his latest contribution to the unit.

The second-grader said the idea to help babies and their families came to him one day when he saw signs promoting an Indianapolis children’s hospital, asking for donations to help children there. That made him want to raise money that stays in his own community to help people here.

He found a way to do it while playing outside.

“I was out at my day care, and I saw my friends digging up stuff,” Justin said of the beginnings of his project. He also noticed that the wild onions were growing around his own home, and near his church, so he had an ample supply.

He took one of the plants to his teacher and asked about it, and learned that it was a wild onion that could be replanted.

“I thought that I could sell them and give the money to help babies,” the enterprising boy said.

While he hasn’t eaten any of the onions, he said he knows that when they grow they can produce a round top that looks like a flower. After he digs the bulbs, he places them in clear plastic snack bags and ties them with a red ribbon.

His mother set up a Facebook page – Justin’s Onions For Babies – to share information about the project.

She said she was surprised when he came home from day care with a bunch of the “dirty little” onions in his backpack. But he was enthusiastic about the project, and he began selling his onions at the rate of two for 25 cents.

His sales took off among family and friends, and one person even gave a $30 donation.

Monday’s donation to the NICU was actually the third that he has made. His first donation was made May 30 in the amount of $114.15. He added another $86.40 on June 12. Monday’s total was $65. But he expects to make more contributions.

His mother said that a fundraiser lunch is planned today where she works in the Sycamore Building. Contributions will go to Justin’s Onions for Babies.

“I want to thank my mom and dad for helping me,” Justin said as he was preparing for the tour of the NICU.

As nurse Jennifer Harrah accompanied the family through the unit, she thanked Justin for his efforts.

“It’s really exciting because that money provides gas cards and meals for families who visit,” she explained.

“I hope it can help pay for hotel rooms for families,” he suggested.

“It does,” Harrah responded.

The conversation seemed to impress his mother, Dawn.

“I don’t know how he knows all this about helping people,” she said.

But she and husband Chris encouraged Justin and said they look forward to helping him continue his fundraising.

 

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.

 

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