JEFFERSON CITY — A mid-Missouri teen has filled a spare bedroom in her home, from ceiling to floor, with Christmas gifts that will be donated to a Tennessee children's hospital.
Emma Clardy, 15, has collected about $7,000 worth of presents and plans to drop them off in a couple of weeks at St. Jude Children's Research Center in Memphis, Tenn. It has triggered a fundraising effort that drew help from businesses, a high school football team and a high school girls basketball team.
Clardy, a high school sophomore, has filled an entire spare room in her house with crayons, coloring books and an assortment of gifts.
"It's full of presents — every corner, on the bed, under the bed," she said. "It's packed. You can't even walk into the room anymore."
The idea started during an August conversation with her family at a steakhouse. Clardy's parents challenged their children to give up some Christmas presents that could be donated to the children's hospitals. Clardy started out hoping to raise $2,000.
That goal was easily surpassed after others learned of Clardy's plans and decided to help out by buying gifts from specially approved lists.
Among those to help were two sports teams that raised about $700 by detailing vehicles at a Fulton auto part store.
South Callaway High School football coach Tim Rulo said he expects his players to do community service.
"We think it is just so important that these kids learn what it is like to volunteer their time and to give of themselves, to learn that servant trade that you don't always get to learn in sports," Rulo said. "But it is great to have an opportunity to do that."
For Clardy, the biggest benefit has been what she called the surreal experience of people stopping and writing a check for her to be able to donate gifts to the hospital's patients.
"I don't know some of them," Clardy said. "They just hand us money. It's kind of weird, but I'm still thankful for it."
The children's hospital patients will receive their presents on Christmas Eve.