NEW PORT RICHEY — Friends Kenna Kreidler and Madison Robison, both 8-year-old third-graders at Cotee River Elementary, say they're always looking for ways to help classmates.
"If we see a kid who is sad on the playground, we go and play with them," said Madison.
"We don't like to see anyone hurt," Kenna agreed. "We like to help them."
Now the students have joined a new school club that will enable them to help others in and out of school.
A local chapter of a national youth service organization sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Greater West Pasco, the K Kids of Cotee River Elementary, has attracted 26 members since its September debut. The club consists of students in grades 3 through 5 and is overseen by Cotee River guidance counselor Maria Schiro.
"We thought that an elementary K Kids club would give the kids a taste for helping others," said Schiro.
They're are already at work on their first community service project, collecting pop-tops on behalf of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Tampa Bay.
"The kids picked the project," said Schiro. "And they're doing the work."
After learning via classroom lesson about the Ronald McDonald House and the families it serves, the kids started soliciting donations of pop-tops that can be recycled for cash and donated to their charity of choice.
"We're doing this for kids that are in the hospital, so that their families can stay near them at the Ronald McDonald House," said Emily Ratliff, 9.
Emily joined several K Kids classmates in promoting this effort Oct. 7 on the Cotee River morning news show; the entire club gathered Oct. 9 in making decorative collection boxes for the effort, which they placed in their classrooms later that morning.
"My mom works at a nursing home and I also volunteer with Special Olympics," she said. "It feels good to help people."
"And in this club we can help people, not only at our school, but in our community," said Brook Caudill, 9.
The kids hope that they'll be able to personally deliver their donation to the Ronald McDonald House and meet the families they're helping. They'll continue more outreach projects, which could include community cleanups, volunteer work at local animal shelters, as well as collecting food, clothes and toys for the needy.
For all that they give, Schiro believes the K Kids will take away much more from their experience in the club.
"The purpose of this club is to develop leadership skills, and to teach the kids to work together," she said. "Above all it helps them to develop empathy — to think, not just about themselves, but others that need help."