Genesee County senior goes above and beyond for class assignment

Community Service

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GENESEE COUNTY, N.Y. — To graduate from Leroy Central School District, juniors and seniors have to complete a community service project. Most kids rake leaves or pick up trash.

For senior Sundae Duyssen, that’s not an option.

“I have muscular dystrophy, which affects my muscles, which makes me to have to have my wheelchair,” Duyssen said. “And I don’t really have that much motor skills.”

While many kids might have taken the easy out on a class requirement, Duyssen said she didn’t want to rely on anyone else to do the dirty work for her.

“I don’t know, it kind of felt like it was, in a way cheating, like using other people,” she said.

So, Duyssen started a toy drive, using social media to get the word out. In a little over a month she collected over 340 toys, clothes, and games and 370 cards. Friends and family from as far away as Arizona donated to her cause. In total, she received donations from 11 different states.

But she didn’t do it totally alone. She had help from Mary Hauck’s 12-1-1 special education class. 

“As soon as they heard about Sundae’s story they said, ‘Can we make cards to go with their gifts?'” Hauck said.

Between their interest, the flyers around the school, and the morning announcements highlighting Duyssen’s drive, classes from all over the school started sending in cards.

“It’s heartwarming,” Hauck said. “It hits a special spot just knowing that kids care about other kids. Sometimes you see disagreements between students, and it’s just really nice to see everybody come together and support.”

The Duyssen family knows what it’s like to be stuck in the hospital around the holidays. 

“She has spent a couple of times in the hospital, 40 days a piece,” Duyssen’s mother, Suzanne Duyssen said. “One was actually close to Christmas.”

Her mom said that Duyssen has been working on projects like this one since she was a kid, helping her older cousins with bake sales. 

And while Suzanne is always proud, bringing holiday cheer to families who need it most hits especially close to home. 

“It’s great,” Suzanne said. “Because, parents at that time — their kids are in the hospital. And 40 days is a lot of days, and you’ve got children at home you’re trying to buy for, so it works out great.”

Duyssen said she’s already planning her next event. In February, she hopes to hold a sock drive for a nearby nursing home.