Paying it forward: a grant for a great idea that helps others in need

Visit after visit to the Geisinger Medical Center in Danville for her child’s treatment got Donna Ireland, of Philipsburg, thinking.

How could she help these other families — coming from State College, Scranton, DuBois, Hazleton, Philipsburg and all over Pennsylvania — with their expenses?

She made about 15 trips to the Geisinger pediatric gastroenterology department between December 2006 and February. They ended when her child’s doctor began to travel to Geisinger’s Patton Forest clinic for appointments. Soon he can work out of the new Grays Woods office.

So the expenses went away for Ireland and her family, but not for others. She knew what they were facing.

Ireland thought of a good deed and sent in a plan when the Centre Daily Times “Pay it Forward” campaign was announced in April, joining 32 other readers in proposing acts of kindness.

The ideas were wonderful and they came from all over Centre County, but a panel of judges chose Ireland’s plan as the winner of the campaign’s $500. She’d like to buy $25 gas cards with the money and distribute them to families coming to the Geisinger pediatric gastroenterology department.

Here’s part of what she wrote in her proposal: “We all know what the price of gas has come to. People are sacrificing trips and visits here and there, but you cannot skip a trip to your child’s specialist for medical treatment because of the gas.”

Ireland will work with Geisinger officials on the details, and perhaps the effort will continue to help families in need. If you’re interested in helping it grow, contact Ireland at dmireland88@gmail.com.

“This is just a tiny, tiny thing I can do to help,” she said after learning that her plan was selected last week. “You have to take care of your child.”

Ireland has three children and provides day care for four others. Her child is continuing with treatments but enjoying a normal life.

For that she’s grateful, and she’s honored to win our campaign held in partnership with 69 other newspapers in Pennsylvania. All over the Keystone State there are stories like Ireland’s, and I’m sure readers are appreciating them in communities like ours.

The Pennsylvania Newspaper Association’s “Pay it Forward” effort was modeled after Oprah Winfrey’s “Pay it Forward Challenge.”

It touched a nerve with Centre Daily Times readers, clearly, and many of nearly three dozen ideas submitted to us were special indeed.

We’d like to publicize some of those ideas and perhaps spark community interest. Contact Ed Stoddard, CDT market development manager, at estoddar@centredaily.com if you’d like your idea shared.

“Pay it Forward” had a great first campaign, and we hope to roll it out again next spring. Thanks to all who participated, and best wishes to Ireland and her family.

As always, please contact me with concerns you have about anything in the Centre Daily Times or online at www.centredaily.com.

Executive Editor Bob Heisse can be reached at bheisse@centredaily.com or 231-4640. His blog, “Back in Happy Valley,” is on the Web site.