Leesville Road High School Student Creates A Way to Give Back for the Holidays

Duke Hospital—the home of sophomore Zoe Blakeman’s gift drive (photo from https://www.dukehealth.org/hospitals/duke-university-hospital/home).

Families everywhere prepare for all of Christmas’ festivities for the holiday season. Some children or even adults who are fortunate enough to celebrate Christmas with all of its holiday cheer, do not stop to think of those that do not have the same opportunities.

Zoe Blakeman — a sophomore at Leesville Road High School — is not one of those people. After being a patient at Duke Hospital, once Blakeman left she began to think of the children who were still being taken care of in the hospital. “Whenever I left, I was reminded of the kids there [Duke Hospital] long term,” said Blakeman.

Blakeman considered the struggles of spending days in a hospital (especially for a child) and the extra tenacity it would take to feel joy around the holiday season. “The hospital is tough but even more difficult around the holidays when these patients cannot be home with their families and friends,” Blakeman said. Being the thoughtful person she is, Blakeman even took into consideration of how difficult it would be for families to buy presents as they also have to worry about costs for expensive medical bills.

“I realized how fortunate I was and saw an opportunity to do my part to not only thank Duke but help the other teenagers there,” said Blakeman. As a thank you to Duke and to help the teenage patients, Blakeman created Dollars for Duke — a gift drive for teenage patients who can easily be looked over in the hospital.

The gift drive began after Blakeman emailed coordinators at Duke in order to receive Christmas lists from patients. “While they focus on improving their health, I wanted to allow them to have an amazing holiday season,” said Blakeman.

She received donations and used them to purchase gifts from off of the teenagers wish lists.

In order to fund for the gift drive, Blakeman used the popular funding site, GoFundMe (http://gf.me/m9qz3). The GoFundMe for the gift drive was open to the public from the beginning of December until early morning December 16. Blakeman also accepted cash donations that were given to her in person. The gifts that were purchased with the donations were delivered to the hospital on December 17.

Blakeman put social media to use and used her social media accounts to advertise the gift drive, along with other friends and family.

She did not receive a specific number of patients that would receive gifts, as the number of teenagers receiving them was determined by the amount of donations Blakeman received. “The more we donate, the more gifts that can be purchased for all the patients,” said Blakeman. Duke Hospital staff will divide up the gifts that were provided by Blakeman, with help from the community, on Christmas day to a variety of teenagers.

Why should people get involved? Blakeman believes that people should get involved because it’s a simple way for people to brighten up someone else’s day. “Given [that] it’s the holiday season, it’s the perfect time to give back and help others,” said Blakeman.

Blakeman plans on the gift drive being an annual way that she and others in the community can bring joy to teens around the holidays. “There will always be many children in the hospital so this is the least we can do as a community to help cheer them up,” said Blakeman.

If you didn’t hear about Blakeman’s creative way to bring in holiday cheer for Christmas at Duke hospital in time to give a donation, just remember the name–Zoe Blakeman. You can go on the journey to advance her gift drive as the holiday season comes and goes in years to come. It never hurts to give back.


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