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Curtis Poke Prize Drive Benefits Texas Children’s Cancer Center

The inspiration to host a toy drive at Sallie Curtis Elementary comes from a very special boy named Gray.

"I have a long history with his grandmother. We grew up together and have known each other since kindergarten, and we went to the same church together. Her grandson Gray is very near and dear to my family, and he's battling leukemia," expressed Curtis Elementary Kindergarten teacher Colleen Leviner.

Leviner explained how six-year old Gray is in his third year of battling leukemia and doing quite well. When he goes to Texas Children's to receive chemo, take blood, or anytime they poke him, Gray gets the chance to go to a gift box and receive a prize for being poked.

"So, Gray went in, and he had his chemo, he had his treatment, and he went to the Poke Prize box, and there was no prize," she said. "I thought, no, that cannot happen. These babies are battling cancer. And they look forward to going to this box and getting a prize. The prize box is empty and that can't happen."

With Gray and other children fighting cancer in mind, Leviner and Curtis Elementary employees held a Poke Prize Drive in late May, benefiting the hospital. People were encouraged to buy new toys at a value of five dollars or less.

"I asked Ms. Tripplet, our principal, if it would be okay if I ran a school-wide contest to bring in Poke Prizes to donate. And, you know, we stipulated that they had to be new because the kids receiving the gift have very immune-compromised systems," said Leviner.

Armed with top prizes like a pizza party, water balloon war, snowcones and more, the competition began. Leviner's classroom quickly filled up and was covered in donations. More than 8,000 toys were collected from students, parents and staff for the Texas Children's Cancer Center. Congratulations to the winners in the school-wide contest.

First place - Ms. Stiles Kindergarten class (1713 prizes) - They will receive a Pizza Party and Water War with some of the front office ladies, Art and Music teachers and Librarian.

Second place - Mrs. Davis' fourth-grade class (1,160 prizes) - They will receive a Water War with the kindergarten teachers (along with pizza donated by their homeroom parent).

Third place - Ms. Autumn's first-grade class (657 prizes) - Each child will receive a snow cone, donated by Mabel’s Snow Cones & Mexican Treats.

Fourth place - Mrs. Smith's third-grade class (411 prizes) - The class will receive a popcorn and juice party. 

With the Poke Prize drive being so successful, the campus has plans to make this an annual event for the hospital.

"This was very touching. In today's society, you sometimes have to scramble to fund people," said Leviner. "This just restored my faith and there are kind people that care about other people."