Delaney Hall’s love of dogs and her big heart started her on a path in 2014 to make a difference in many lives: young and old, human and animal, here and around the world.
Six birthdays later, she is being recognized as the top middle-school volunteer in the state through a national program, the Prudential Spirit of Community Award, which honors young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism.
Hall, a seventh grader at Amelia V. Carriel Junior High in O’Fallon, has won $1,000, an engraved silver medallion and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., in May.
She will join the top two youth volunteers — one from middle level and one from high school — from each state and District of Columbia to participate in four days of national recognition events. They will tour landmarks, attend a gala at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Ten students will be named America’s top volunteers during the trip.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to Belleville News-Democrat
Sponsored by Prudential Financial, the awards are in their 24th year and in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Ellen Hays, principal at Carriel Junior High, recommended Delaney for the honor.
What began as a birthday fundraiser has turned into a labor of love for not only Delaney, but her family, friends and community.
“We are so proud of her. She’s made a bigger impact in our community in her 12 years than most people make in a lifetime,” said Lynn Hall, her mom. “She has worked so hard over the past six years — almost half her life — and has done so much for others and never asked for anything in return. She has such a pure heart and really puts others needs before her own. I’m just so blessed to be able to call her my daughter.”
Volunteering is her life
When Delaney was 8 years old, her mother asked her what she wanted for her birthday. She decided that instead of a gift for herself, she would collect to help Gateway Pet Guardians.
“We had a party at the park. They brought some dogs to foster, and one friend wound up adopting one of the dogs,” Lynn Hall said. “People brought dog leashes, bags of dog food. That’s how it started.”
“It felt so great when I delivered all the food and supplies that I decided to do it again,” she said.
That began the tradition of “Donation Parties” for every May 2, her birthday. St. Louis Children’s Hospital, The Shoeman Water Project, Fontebella Maternity Shelter and Caritas/St. John Bosco Children’s Center have been the beneficiaries.
For Children’s, they made fleece blankets and gave them out at the hospital. So that 600 homes in India could have clean water, she collected 2,004 pairs of shoes.
“We had a shoe-tying party, and not a lot of people came, but good friends did, and her fourth grade teacher, Carol Hauer, who has taken her out to lunch for her birthday the past three years,” Lynn Hall said.
Baby supplies, diapers, strollers and other items were given to a local maternity home. Last year, they surpassed their goal of $3,000 for Caritas, the St. John Bosco Children’s Center, by raising $5,500. Online donations helped boost the totals.
“I feel like every year the charity I donate to needs the stuff more than me,” Delaney said.
Delaney put into words what is the most gratifying.
“It’s the small moments, such as a happy parent when they got to pick out a blanket we made to give to his child that just had brain surgery, or when I was told the money and shoes I raised in 2016 was going to help 600 families get fresh water to their houses, or the feeling I get knowing that I was able to help new moms and children have a better, happier life,” Delaney said. “And, of course, I love animals, so it’s nice to be able to help them feel loved and have a nice life.”
This year’s goal
Her goal this year is to raise $6,000, plus donate as many supplies as can fill up a pickup truck, for Randy’s Rescue Ranch, located at 1400 E. U.S. 50 in O’Fallon.
Randy’s Rescue Ranch is a non-profit organization that is a 20-acre place of healing for both animals and people using progressive programs. It features a variety of animals — horses, donkeys, cows, pigs and dogs — who were rescued from abuse, neglect and abandonment.
In 2017, Randy Grim established it as a horse rescue and an assisted living and hospice home for dogs from Stray Rescue of St. Louis. But then opened it up to others as more suffering animals made their way there. The animals who return to good health become available for adoption. Specialized programs connect special needs and autistic children and adults with the rescued animals.
Between now and her birthday month of May, when she makes the donation, Delaney has fundraisers planned. In addition, she has been walking her neighbor’s dog, and putting those earnings towards Randy’s.
The Halls are appreciative of the business community who helps them raise money. Dairy Queen and McAllister’s have sponsored recent donation nights, where a portion of that evening’s proceeds are donated back. Several will be coming up, including one at Gia’s Pizza.
Lynn Hall said owner Scott Kaiser has been a valuable supporter, starting with them early. “This is his third one,” she said.
Delaney is excited about the Poker Tournament being at Randy’s because “John the Cow and Pickles the Pig will be there.” And she gets to play with the animals.
Delaney is a typical soon-to-be teenager, turning 13 on May 2. At school, she is a member of the National Junior Honor Society and the volleyball team. She also plays volleyball at the YMCA — her mom is her team coach — and is a member of St. Nicholas Church.
Her hobbies include drawing, especially anime, and she loves horses. She played chess in the fall with the Chess Club and helped on the crew for the drama production.
She has two older brothers, Benjamin, 16, and Nolan, 15, and they live with parents, Lynn and Eric, in a north O’Fallon area with a Lebanon address. Their dog Charlie, a Havanese, joined the family eight years ago.
Fundraising is a family affair
The fundraising efforts are a true family affair. Her mom helps Delaney research different groups, and then they make visits to the places. The boys help with various tasks, including helping carry items when a portion of their home is overtaken with silent auction donations. Her grandparents, Lorraine and Donald Boeser, also lend a hand.
It perhaps came as no surprise, for ever since she was little, Delaney enjoyed helping others. After Hurricane Katrina hit, Delaney made a card and sent $2 as a donation. Her note read:
“I hope you’re OK. My family is thinking about you.”
Children usually learn by example, and both of Delaney’s parents have been active in various organizations.
Lynn said she was involved in community activities but stopped doing most of them when Delaney’s fundraisers took over for six months of the year. However, she tries to donate time or support.
As an officer on the PTO Board, she served as secretary, vice-president and president. She was a Cub Scout Den leader for both sons for many years, and “Cookie Mom” for the past four years for Delaney’s former Girl Scout troop.
“Right now, my world mostly revolves around the kids’ activities and my work,” Lynn said.
Lynn Hall, who is originally from Trenton and a graduate of Mater Dei High School in Breese, currently is a physical therapy assistant at Collinsville Community School District Eric Hall is currently coaching the boys’ travel bowling league for St. Clair Bowl. He’s the one who set up the Poker Tournament, as he enjoys playing cards.
Eric graduated from Mascoutah High School and currently works at Olin Brass and Copper as an accountant.
“We try to do as much as we can as a family. The kids are young for such a short time and I want to spend as much time with them as I can. Eric and I try to instill good values in the kids and try to guide them to do the right thing. Of course, we all make our mistakes, but we learn from them and move on,” Lynn said.
Mother and daughter are currently growing out their hair to donate to Children with Hair Loss. They had previously donated to Pantene Beautiful Locks, but that program has discontinued, and they found another one.
“It’s a really good cause,” Lynn Hall said.
Looking forward to visiting Washington, D.C.
They are excited to travel to D.C. together too, for neither had ever been before.
“It will be fun,” Delaney said.
Her mom noted that the recognition doesn’t faze her daughter.
“I don’t think she thinks of it as that big of a deal,” she said.
However, she is thrilled when others are inspired to do things.
Of the entire experience the past six years, she said.
“I’m definitely learning a lot.”
For updates on the donation drives, follow her Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/DelaneysDonations/. For more information, contact DelaneysDonations@gmail.com or 618-406-1824.