Local foundation donates equipment to schools

Powder Mill School Principal Erin Carrier stands in front of the Southwick school with a box of headphones and sensory seating options donated by the Start Em Early Foundatiion. (JO-ANN DAVIDSON PHOTO)

Start Em Early Foundation donation made possible with T Mobile funding 

SOUTHWICK – The Start Em Early Foundation ended 2020 on a high note thanks to a $3,000 donation from T Mobile USA.

Founders Erik and Jo-Ann Davidson, of Southwick, said the company fulfilled the Foundation’s 2020 Gofundme goal and they put the money to good use, using a portion of it to purchase much needed equipment for Fort Meadow Early Childhood Center in Westfield and Powder Mill School in Southwick.

“We were surprised and thrilled with the donation and wanted to pass some of that on to our local schools supporting students on the spectrum,” said Erik Davidson.

Start Em Early Foundation is a 501c3 group which teaches youth “The Basics,” including CPR, First Aid, and Community Service, using curriculum for Scouting, Young Marines, and other civic groups.  The group also has a focus on youth autism and early intervention outreach. Its key project is “The Sensory Sack” — sensory tools for first response. Most Foundation instructors are volunteer adults who work in fire, EMS, law enforcement or other first response.

The Foundation used T Mobile funds to purchase noise-canceling headphones with microphones for both schools, as well as alternative seating including wobbly seat pads.

Powder Mill School Principal Erin Carrier said the school has many physical supports for students, including options for alternative seating and headphones, in school, but they cannot accommodate those needs when students are learning at home. The donations from Start Em Early will be used by some students at home.

“We have a lot of ways to support students in school that can’t be brought back and forth from school to home,” Carrier said. “We are appreciative to be able to have these items during hybrid and remote learning — these are the things that help a child be successful.”

The funds were also used to purchase needed supplies and material for the Foundation.

Erik Davidson is also involved in local scouting and Boy Scout Troop 114 in Southwick wrapped the items as part of their community service to earn their Citizenship in the Community Merit Badge.

Alyson Reid accepts a donation of headphones with microphones for the Fort Meadow Early Childhood Center from the Start Em Early Foundation. (JO-ANN DAVIDSON PHOTO)

The “Sensory Sacks,” which contain items that help calm a person with autism or other sensory challenges during an emergency, continue to be a need for EMS & First Responders.

“We have raised our goal for 2021 to continue to provide this service,” said Erik Davidson. “We had a successful 2020 and have reached out to over 30 departments in five states.”

Foundation volunteers have also offered Zoom Trainings during Covid-19. Davidson noted that Covid-19 has been a challenge for first responders interacting with the autism community due to the increased personal protective equipment, which can be scary looking, especially to a child, and hinder communication.

Anyone wishing to make a donation toward Sensory Sack purchases can do so at https://gofund.me/f2d22b14.

Members of Southwick Boy Scout Troop 114 wrap donations to local schools from the Start Em Early Foundation. (JO-ANN DAVIDSON PHOTO)

Start Em Early Foundation donations are wrapped by Southwick Boy Schout Troop 114. (JO-ANN DAVIDSON PHOTO)

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