Solon High School student collects lights to spread holiday cheer to children in hospital

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SOLON, Ohio (WJW) -- The holidays are a time for comfort and joy, but many children spend that time of year in hospitals for all kinds of treatments.

One Solon High School student is working to brighten their rooms this time of year.

"I didn't want to be there. I wanted to be with my family. I wanted to be celebrating the holidays," said Olivia Messina, of her time in the hospital for a broken leg in the eighth grade. "One of my favorite things is holiday lights."

So, she strung them up around her bed and when it was time to leave, she spread the holiday cheer.

"I decided to take them across the hall to a boy who was going to be there through Christmas and I gave them to him with a little card. And, he was just so happy," Olivia said.

After thinking about the joy the lights brought her and the other boy in the hospital, she had another bright idea. Three years ago, she started Lights for Kids.

"I wanted to help bring that same joy that it brought me and comfort to other kids in the hospital," Olivia said.

She said it also helped her recovery when the nurses came in often to check on her.

"They provide just enough light for them to see what they're doing without having to wake up the kid."

The first year she collected 213 new boxes of holiday lights and donated them to University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, where the now-high school junior was a patient.

"This year we've made it an official non-profit and it's just boomed."

Olivia said they're hoping to give more than 500 donation boxes of holiday lights. That's double what they did last year to split the donations between Rainbow Babies and Children's and St. Jude.

Her 12-year-old cousin is getting treatment at St. Jude Children's Hospital for a rare form of brain cancer.

"They're there through the fight and I wanted to bring some lights and some comfort to them."

Lights for Kids also accepts monetary donations. Olivia said they have surpassed their goal so far this year of $750.

"I want to help people, I just love helping people so with every box of lights I know I am helping someone," Olivia explained.

Her organization is sponsored by the school's random acts of kindness club. The school system said it works to give their students skills and avenues to help give back to the community. It said it has rotating donations sponsored by school clubs year-round.

Olivia is on the board of the youth program at her temple as the social activist president. She also helps run social action programs, is on the swim team and marching band. She wants to work with the FBI in the future.

Olivia said she hopes to take Lights for Kids to college and beyond.

"I'm hoping to help so many other hospitals other than the two in the next 10 years," she said.

The nonprofit is a shining example of how a small gesture can brighten someone's world.

If you would like to donate, there are bins at the Solon Board of Education building, the city's recreation department and Palm Beach Tan in Solon.

You can also donate directly to Olivia at lightsforkids2@gmail.com. All donations go towards purchasing lights for kids. Light donations must be new.

More on Lights for Kids here and here

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