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Watch Amanda's First TV Interview!
Six-year-old Amanda Perlyn is interviewed by Peter D'Oench of WPLG Local 10 News in Fort Lauderdale, after she makes a difference by helping her first grade teacher, Dr. Marguerite Malko, visit her only child for the holidays. Original air date December 1988.

LEARN what's going on.
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Tribune correspondent

   HUDSON • Alex Galoza celebrated his eighth birthday Wednesday by helping classmates in need.
   As one of 230 students who collected pledges for the OCHO
- Opportunity for Children to Help Others - service project at Northwest Elementary School, Alex helped make it possible for every student at Northwest to take home free books from last week's book fair.
   "It made my heart feel warm to help," he said. "Some of my friends said that when they went to the fair and saw all those books, their own hearts beat so fast they couldn't stop them."
   Students collected pledges to read eight books each, earning a dollar a book, and brought used books from home.
   They collected more than $1,200 to buy books for this year's fair from Look At A Book. Store owner Chip Houghton donated 500 books.

Northwest's business and community partners sponsored books for 80 students, and Veterans Elementary conducted a book drive.
   The school collected 3,000 books for the fair. The project was greatly needed, said Northwest guidance counselor Lisa Peart.
   "Every year it would break my heart to see students that didn't have enough money to buy a book at the fair," she said. "I'd find myself reaching in my own purse to get change to help them."
   Peart contacted Marilyn Perlyn, a children's book author who founded the OCHO project, a national effort to promote literacy and community service for children. Perlyn previously had worked with schools that staged book-collection efforts on behalf of Title I schools, where a large number of students come from low-income families. But this is the first time a Title I school has conducted its own OCHO project, she said.

   "Northwest is a model school," said Perlyn, who flew from Delray Beach for the book fair.
   Many student council members vulunteered at the fair, including council President Nicholas Golden, 10.
   "Reading makes the mind grow," said the fifth-grader. "This is a good activity for all the kids."
   Students who collected pledges received five books; they were allowed to keep one and donated the others.
   Taking books home will help students improve their reading during the summer, teacher Sue Samuelson said.

School book drive spreads smiles

Lois Pope donates 10 million inspired by Eric Perlyn's gift

Lois Pope, $10 million donor to the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, talks with Marc Buoniconti, who was paralyzed in a 1985 football game. "We can be more optimistic than at any time that a cure will be found," Buoniconti said after the donation announcement.

Teen's gift inspires $10 million donation for paralysis cure

Staff Writer

    When Boca Raton teen-ager Eric Perlyn spent his bar mitzvah money to buy shoes for needy children in 1992, he had no way of knowing his gift would grow 10 million times.
     But on Monday, when Palm Beach County philanthropist Lois Pope gave $10 million to the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, she said Perlyn's selfless action was the first link in a chain of events that led to her decision.
     "I believe in what I call 'life links' - people, events and causes that link people to one another," she said.
     Pope said a story she read in the Sun-Sentinel about Perlyn's efforts to donate hundreds of pairs of shoes to needy children inspired her to start LIFE - Leaders in Furthering Education - in 1993.
     "I felt that people like that young man should be rewarded and encouraged to continue helping others and nurtured as future leaders of society," she said. LIFE gives full scholarships to young people who have performed good works and also gives gifts to major universities and special projects.



SOURCE: Miami Project to Cure Palalysis, American Paralyssi Association New York Times


Teen's generosity inspires major gift for paralysis cure

     She said the next link in the chain was forged in 1994 when Christopher Reeve was guest of honor at a charity ball to benefit LIFE asked her to dance the first dance with him, and agreed to serve on the board of directors.
     That was a year before Reeve's horse pitched him headfirst to the ground in 1995, nearly ending his life and leaving him paralyzed from the neck down.
     Even though he couldn't be at the 1995 LIFE benefit, he sent a video message saluting the organization.
     "In that video, he asked me to save him a dance," Pope said. "He truly believes he will walk and dance again, and I truly believe he will."
     Pope's gift to the Miami Project will go toward the construction of a new building at the University of Miami School of Medicine to house scientific and clinical research programs, University President Edward T. Foote II said.
     "Mrs. Pope's generous support will enable us to expand the vital work of the Miami project, leading to new treatments, and ultimately, a cure for spinal cord injuries," Foote said at a news conference announcing the gift.
     The building will be called the Lois Pope LIFE Center and will be part of a new research quadrangle at Northwest 11th Avenue and 14th Terrace on the medical school campus.
     Right now the work of the project is scattered among several buildings, said Dr. Barth Green, a co-founder of the Miami Project along with Nick Buoniconti, former All-Pro Miami Dolphin, whose son Marc was paralyzed in a college football game in 1985.
     March Buoniconti called Pope's gift a giant step in the quest to fulfill a promise his father made to him shortly after his injury.
     "We can be more optimistic than at any time that a cure will be found. One day we will all walk," Marc Buoniconti said.
     Significant progress has been made over the past decade, Green said. When the Miami Project started, many scientists said a cure was impossible.

eric perlyn in the news


     "We have seen a major revolution in scientific thinking. The view that the spinal cord and brain in humans lack the ability to regenerate has been proven wrong," Green said.
     Researchers recently have been successful in building bridges of nerves across broken spinal cords in animals, an area the Miami Project has been pioneering.
     "We are at the threshold of learning how to apply this new knowledge in human patients through the use of such cutting-edge technology as genetic engineering and transplantation of cells," Green said.
     Pope, widow of National Enquirer founder Generoso Pope, is active in many charitable causes and will join the board of directors of the Buoniconti Fund, a fund-raising arm of the Miami Project.
     At the news conference, she met Chad Perlyn, Eric Perlyn's brother. Chad is a second year medical student at athe University of Miami.
     Eric Perlyn, 19, now a freshman at Duke University, was astounded to learn of Monday's events.
    I've never met [Mrs. Pope] but it's so ironic that out of all the charities she could have donated to, she decided to donate to UM. My brother's there, and there are other links we have," he said in a phone interview.
     Perlyn played for Pine Crest in the football game in which Stranahan High player Kendrick English became paralyzed. He went to his coach wanting to help somehow and as a result the two teams visited English and gave him a TV for his hospital room.
     "To think that something I did four years ago might help him now, I can't really express the feeling that you get from that. I don't know how to put it into words, how good it makes me feel," he said.

The OCHO Project in Tanzania!
Students at Northwest Elementary School in Hudson, Florida, participated in The OCHO Project at their school and obtained 3000 books for kids who had few or no books of their own. Through the kindness and generosity of these students who wished to "pay it forward," cartons of their books were sent to students at Moya Primary School in Babati, Tanzania. The African students were overjoyed to receive the gift of books! Click on this video to listen to the music, see the smiles on the children's faces, and here the laughter as they dance and rejoice!

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girl browses books at OCHO project book fair
kids show off their new books

Northwest Elementary School - Hudson, FL


Teen's gift inspires $10 million donation for paralysis cure

Students at Northwest Elementary School reached out recently to fellow students a world away through the OCHO Project - Read for a Need. OCHO - Opportunities for Children to Help Others - is a character-based service learning project dedicated to improving literacy, encouraging a love of reading, and teaching youngsters that you help yourself when you help others, say proponents. The prime objective of the program is to have students read not only to expand their knowledge but to help "earn" books for students who have few books of their own. Students serve and learn while building character values and discovering that they are capable of bringing about change, proponents say.

Kids share
the gift of

kids show off their new books

reacts as she
learns that
children in
some African
schools sit on
stones rather
than chairs,
and lack such
things as
school meals
and crayons.



kids show off their new books
kids show off their new books

Northwest Elementary first-graders Kieric Amato, left, and William Boyd focus on a presentation about the lives of students in Africa and how Northwest students' donations of more than 100 books filld a need for them.

Students in Tanzania, in southeastern Africa, show off books they got from students at Northwest Elementary in Hudson.

Pasco [Tampa Bay] Times • Thursday, March 11, 2010


OCHO Project to promote reading at West

Students at West Elementary School in Jefferson, WI
help others through the OCHO Project service learning program

Daily Jefferson County Union • November 20, 2009

JEFFERSON - Students at Jefferson's West Elementary School will hone their own reading skills as they work to provide books to enrich others' lives.

Tami Hess, one of the three co-advisors to the school's new Student Council group said that this months-long project has two aims: To teach students the value of reaching out to and helping others, and to emphasize the importance of literacy here and around the world.

Hess said that the school's new Student Council group - consisting of 16 fourth- and fifth-graders - just started up a couple months ago, and this is one of the projects the council decided to take up.

The service learning project, "Opportunities for Children to Help Others" is called OCHO for short - the Spanish word for eight.

Throughout the program's run, all 300 West students will be challenged to raise $8 in pledges for reading eight books.

The funds from the reading drive will go to a used book store in Miamisburg, Ohio, called "Look at a Book." The store then will work closely with West to send enough books back to provide each student with one to two gently-used books to be dispensed at a free book fair at the school in March.

The books for the fair also will be boosted by community donations.

"By completing this project, students are learning how literacy is a worldwide issue," said Hess, noting that one in seven people cannot read, despite the fact that the skill is vital to becoming a successful adult in the modern world. The project also fits in with the community wide character education initiative, "Character in Action," which is spearheaded by the School District of Jefferson.

"The OCHO Project will help students learn honesty, caring, and responsibility," Hess said. "By asking students to read and share books, we are promoting reading while helping other students who are in need."

Hess said that West Elementary School has frequent book fairs, but unfortunately, many students cannot afford to purchase materials there.

"So many students here don't have exposure to any books at home," said Hess, who teaches cross-categorical special education and co-advises Student Council with fellow teachers Francie Brown and A.J. Paul.

This project will help to ensure all students have at least one book to share at home," Hess said.

The teacher stated that the idea for the OCHO project and the free book fair came from the regional character education conference that the Jefferson school district sponsors each year in Waukesha.

Specifically, character education presenter Marilyn Perlyn - mother, educator, public speaker and nationally recognized expert on parenting and character education - suggested a similar project, and the West teachers felt it would translate well to their school, Hess said.

Since Jefferson's "Character in Action" seeks to involve not just the schools, but the entire community, it's only fitting that community members have the opportunity to contribute to the OCHO Project, as well.

Thus, the West Student Council will be extending the invitation to the community as a whole to contribute new or gently used books for the fair.

"As the book fair draws nearer, we're looking to have boxes at local business places to collect books," Hess said. "If anyone wants to volunteer to donate money toward the books, they can also contact us."

To assist with the project or with questions, people may call Hess or West principal Mike Howard at West Elementary School at (920) 675-1200.

"We are never too young to make a difference in another person's life," Hess said. "It's the Jefferson Way!"

By Pam Chickering Wilson
Union staff writer

girl browses books at OCHO project book fair
girl browses books at OCHO project book fair
girl browses books at OCHO project book fair

FREE BOOK FAIR [March 10, 2010] - West Elementary School in Jeferson held a free book fair for all of its students Tuesday as part of its year-long OCHO Project. Titled "Opportunities for Children to Help Others," the project challenged students to read eight books and gather pledges of $1 from eight adults. That money went toward collecting books for needy children elsewhere in the world, while at home, the school and its student council organized a book drive for Tuesday's free book fair. The collection ultimately yielded around 400 books, enough for each child to take home at least two books. The OCHO Project, which ties in with the district's focus on character education, concentrates on giving to others in combination with a push for local and global literacy. Pictured above, fifth-grade volunteers Hannah Bingha and Christopher Lee check students' books and take their tickets after a younger class has gone through the free book fair. Pictured showing them his books is kingergarten pupil Jon Lenz. Pictured top left, Marissa Battist looks over the selections at the kingergarten table. Shown at bottom left scanning the titles are Shyla Booth, Alison Barradas, Jon Lenz, Luisa Mendez, and Miguel Rodriguez, among others.

girl browses books at OCHO project book fair

Shown at left, students from Nancy Pope's kindergarten class read their first selections while waiting for a second turn to choose a book.

Daily Union photos by
Pam Chickering Wilson

Follow up story from March 10, 2010 OCHO Book Fair at West Elementary - Jefferson, WI

Students at Northwest Elementary School in Hudson, FL
reach out to fellow students in Tanzania, Africa

Town Crier online Masthead

Friday, June 18, 2010

Binks Forest Students of Wellington, FL help Haitian Kids by Making Books

Students in Ann Jacob’s writing class at Binks Forest Elementary School made English-Creole word books for children who were injured in the earthquake in Haiti.

These special children were evacuated to Miami Children’s Hospital for care after the earthquake. More than 70 student-published books were given to the children during a fun trip to Universal Studios in Orlando. The idea for the trip came from Dr. Chad Perlyn, who operated on the children. Perlyn felt that these children needed healing physically and emotionally. The children read the books during the three-hour bus ride to and from Orlando, and continue to read and study the books as they begin to learn English.

Binks Forest Students with books they made

Binks Forest students with the books they made.

Binks Forest Students Create
Books For Haitian Children

The students got the idea after listening to author Marilyn Perlyn on Career Day. Jacob helped with the translation and bookmaking, and the students illustrated the books. Book titles include Months of the Year, Days of the Week, Numbers, Colors, Parts of the Body, Farm Animals, Nature and more.

Town Crier online Masthead

Pasco Times
Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Northwest Elementary has a novel idea that promotes reading and charity.
Can you help with postage or books?

HUDSON — There may be no richer feeling than brightening the world of someone half a world away.

The kids at Northwest Elementary School — who sent about 100 books to needy children in Tanzania last school year — hope to send a shipment twice that big to impoverished students in India.

That's not a trivial undertaking at Northwest Elementary, where four out of every five students qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch. Most of the kids can't afford to buy the books that will eventually get shipped overseas.

Binks Forest Students with books they made

Read, and the world
reads with you

Tanzanian students received about 100 books from kids at
Northwest Elementary in the last OCHO Project. Next up: India.

About a quarter of the students are able to bring in $8 to the spring book fair, and that money helps buy books for everyone at Northwest Elementary, guidance counselor Lisa Peart said. Additional books are donated by other schools and civic groups.

The Northwest kids spend a summer enjoying their books, then "pay it forward" by sending the books to students in another part of the world, she said. The effort is part of the "OCHO Project: Read for a Need," a character-based service learning project to improve literacy, encourage a love of reading, and teach kids that you help yourself when you help others. OCHO stands for Opportunities for Children to Help Others.

"They've had something really great done for them. They've gotten four or five free books," Peart said of her students. "Now that they've had something really great done for them, they need to turn around and do something nice for other kids around the world."

Students are getting ready to do just that. But first they need to raise money for postage. Sending about 200 books roughly 8,000 miles will cost about $300, Peart figures. The student council is starting to plan some fundraisers.

Northwest Elementary is also seeking children's books to send to India or to sell at its Oct. 15 fall festival to raise money for playground equipment. Donations may be dropped off at the front office.

Peart plans to ship the books to India in November. The next lesson for the students is what comes back: photos and letters from abroad showing what life is like. Last year the kids at Northwest learned that the students in Tanzania sit on stones, not chairs, and lack many basics, from school meals to crayons.

But they also saw pictures of joyous children they've never met holding the books sent by their American friends.

"There would be pictures where they (Northwest kids) would say, 'Hey, that's my book that kid is holding up!' " Peart said. "That was neat for them to see their book went halfway around the world."

The OCHO Project helps distribute books to 150 students in India

Gudur News in India December 28, 2010


Founders of the OCHO Project, Marilyn and Don Perlyn, have said people need to cultivate the habit of reading books to increase their knowledge. In a program that took place in the local Alluru Audisesha Reddy Rotary Hall, Rotary Club Gudur and Dream India Foundation with the support of The OCHO Project distributed books to 150 students on various subjects. Speaking on the occasion, they said this program was intended to promote book reading among school children. They said Indians studying in the US have been doing better than the local Americans and hence they share a lot of respect for the country and its people. Dream India Foundation Chairman Surendra spoke on the occasion and said book reading is important for children; it helps in knowing new things and helps guide you in life. President and Secretary of Rotary Club and many Rotarians participated in the occasion.

(Article mentioned the names of a few other Rotarians).

Binks Forest Students with books they made
Binks Forest Students with books they made

Third grade students at Imagine Rosefield earn free books for students at Imagine Avondale by reading books

Imagine Rosefield students conclude service learning project

By Kacie Buzzard
Special to the Independent

Third grade students at Imagine Rose-fi eld completeled a service learning project that allowed them to earn free books for students at Imagine Avondale by reading books, themselves. This innovative program was developed in cooperation with Read for a Need and Op-portunity for Children to Help Others. More than 100 third-graders at Imagine Rosefield read a surprising 1,300 books on the We Give Books website, which earned them 1000 books to donate toward a book fair for their sister school, Imagine Avondale. The students additionally collected nearly 1,000 additional books for the book fair.“Our students just loved this project! They were very touched knowing that their efforts would impact real children that they would get to meet,” said Anne Hui, a third-grade teacher at Imagine Rosefi eld. “They were extremely proud to actually give each child at Imagine Elementary Avondale school three books to keep.”Imagine Rosefi eld principal, Cynthia Juarez explained that the inspiration for this project came from a Time magazine article dated April 17, 2010 which stated, "Increasingly, neuroscientists, psychologists and educators believe that bullying and other kinds of violence can indeed be reduced by encouraging empathy at an early age. Over the past decade, research in empathy — the ability to put ourselves in another person’s shoes — has suggested that it is key, if not the key, to all human social interaction and morality.”Ms. Juarez went on to explain, “Going to another school and running the book fair was the biggest highlight for Imagine Rosefeld students who now understand the need for children to have books of their own. Knowing that they were helping 480 students was so impactful.

They had a fi rst-hand chance to truly feel empathy and were empowered knowing that, at their young age, they were capable of making a differ-ence in the lives of others.”Teachers at Imagine Avondale Elemen-tary school were so touched seeing their students so full of smiles. Each Imagine Rosefeld student was paired up with a child to help him or her select books. Even though the recipient students were so excited, once they received their books it was so quiet that you could hear a pin drop. Students fl ipped through their new books and were reading so diligently while their classmates fi nished selecting books.

Binks Forest Students with books they made

Students are all smiles as they help each other pick out books during the book fair. From left are Logan Woodburn, Jose Valadez, Izabel Burdick, and Jasmine Gomez. Natalie Flynn is in the back-ground.

Binks Forest Students with books they made

The impact of this project can best be summed up by Madi Luft, a third-grade stu-dent at Imagine Rosefi eld, “Kids who don’t have books really deserve to have some. I enjoyed helping other kids fi nd books at the book fair. ” madi continued, “This was the fi rst ever free book fair organized by Imagine Rose-fi eld students to benefi t Imagine Avondale students. This highly successfully and pow-erful event will surely be repeated so that next year’s students can experience the same joy and feelings of accomplishment.” Imagine Rosefi eld is a tuition free school serving students in kindergarten through sixth grade by creating a vibrant learn-ing community of achievement and hope. Imagine Rosefi eld is known for its accel-erated program which attracts students throughout the West Valley. Visit www.imaginerosefi eld.com.

Editor’s Note: Kacie Buzzard is com-munications director for Imagine Schools, Arizona West Region.

Broward schools benefit from reading program

By Julie Landry Laviolette, Special Correspondent
April 23, 2011

Marilyn Perlyn's goal is to teach children about empathy, one book at a time.

Three years ago, the Delray Beach mother of three started The OCHO Project, which encourages children to read and gives them opportunities to donate books to kids in need. OCHO, which stands for Opportunities for Children to Help Others, also is the Spanish word for eight. To date, the program has been used in 15 schools across the country and has distributed nearly 15,000 books to needy children. Read the full story >>

Students in Gudar, India, celebrate the donation of books made possible through The OCHO Project. (Submitted photo)

Binks Forest Students with books they made
Binks Forest Students with books they made

Students’ Compassion Leads to Donation of 1400 Children’s Books

The Korea Times
Los Angeles • June 21, 2011

Hobart Elementary School in Los Angeles “Read and Give to Others” OCHO project, which encourages elementary students to read, had an event at Hobart Boulevard Elementary. Students are displaying the books they receive for reading and may donate.

Kim Ji Min, reporter


"The Biggest and Brightest Light"
Elementary School Play and Musical

Based on the true story from the book
"The Biggest and Brightest Light - The Magic of Helping Others"
The #1 Character Education musical for grades 3-6 to perform, featuring 9 original songs children will love to sing!

Enjoy these video clips from a spectacular performance of The Biggest and Brightest Light by students at Air Base Elementary School. Directed by Melissa Wright.

"A True Story of the Heart"

"Guess My Hat"

"Red-Nosed Reindeer"

"Little Angel"

"A Cookie"


The OCHO Project helps Colorado students share 2000 books!
Students from Aspen Creek K-8 in Broomfield, CO partnered with Wilson Elementary in Colorado Springs, CO to bring 2000 books to Wilson Elementary school students through The OCHO Project. Aspen Creek students collected the books through donations and spare change. Aspen Creek is the first school to bring The OCHO Project to Colorado with many more surely to follow their example of teaching children the great value of helping others.

Henry Raab students collecting books to send to Africa

April 12, 2013

Students at Henry Raab Elementary School in Belleville are collecting new and gently used books to send to children in the African country of Namibia.

"Some of children down there don't have any books to read," said 11-year-old Kendric Carpenter, a fifth-grader at the school.

"It's going to help people learn to read if they don't know how," said fifth-grader Katie Wilkerson, 11.

Kendric and Katie's fifth grade class taught by Nicole Deihl and Kim Showalter's second-grade class are leading the service-learning project called the Opportunity for Children to Help Others, known as the OCHO project.

NEWS STORIES of caring and sharing

Pasco School Programs Put Free Books in Hands of Needy Children

April 27, 2013
By Megan Hussey, Times Correspondent

A few years ago, staff and PTA members at Seven Oaks Elementary in Wesley Chapel noticed that some students were unable to participate in the yearly Scholastic Book Fair.

"It was so sad," said Charla Palmer, media specialist at Seven Oaks Elementary. "Teachers didn't want kids who couldn't buy books to be embarrassed, so they'd sometimes ask them to stay back in the classroom during the book fair. Other kids were told they could just look at the books."

Three years ago, Palmer joined forces with the PTA to make sure that no Seven Oaks student would leave the book fair empty handed. Read full story >>


Second-grader Preston Beltran, 8, said they are raising the money in several different ways including selling smencils, scented pencils, and popcorn for 25 cents a bag.

Copyright © 2019 The OCHO Project, LLC. • All rights reserved

The sole member of The Ocho Project, LLC is Stepp'n Up Shoes for Kids, Inc., a Florida not for profit corporation with 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.