Mighty Meredith Project celebrates the spirit of giving; dreams big for 2021

Jan 11, 2021 by

Published January 7, 2021

By ALLIE HASTINGS

THE MIGHTY KIND MMP volunteers dropped off toys and gift cards on Christmas eve to Tufts Children’s Hospital. Front row, l-r: Caroline, Catherine and Meredith Casey; members of the Pediatric Neurology Clinic (holding animals). Back row, Chris Lemone and Peter Casey. (Karen Casey Photo)

NORTH READING — Despite the hard-hitting impact of COVID-19, North Reading High School sophomore Meredith Casey has been busy at work these past few months fulfilling her Fill the Box Toy Drive Campaign, an annual fundraiser that is dedicated to donating toys and gifts to children being treated at the Boston Children’s Hospital and Tufts Children’s Hospital.

This was her third year hosting the campaign, as the initiative means a lot to her personally and is linked to the efforts of her nonprofit organization, the Mighty Meredith Project (MMP). 

Back in 2015, Casey hit her head, and months later her doctors discovered that she had a blood clot in her brain due to the related head trauma. She created the MMP shortly after receiving her diagnosis in hopes of educating others on traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) and connecting with patients who may be living with similar conditions.

There are three pillars that make up The Mighty Meredith Project’s mission statement – Mighty Kind, Mighty Giving, and Mighty Smart. Casey explains that she chose these words because her nonprofit organization strives to promote kindness while giving back to the medical community and bringing awareness to TBIs and the impacts of having a hidden disease.

“A traumatic brain injury is hidden, it’s not like a cast that you can see on someone’s arm, or crutches,” she stated, likening her experience and the experiences of others to the well-known phrase, “Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”

Casey had multiple events and fundraisers planned for 2020 but was forced to cancel most of them as the year started to unravel and the coronavirus pandemic took hold. The one thing she chose not to cancel, however, was her Fill the Box Toy Drive Campaign – a comprehensive project that benefits and services the Child Life organizations at the two hospitals where Casey has and continues to receive care. 

Each year around the beginning of November, Casey reaches out to one of her contacts who works in the neurology department at Tufts Children’s Hospital to receive a list of names of families that have been hardest hit by medical bills and expenses. She then flies under-the-radar to discover what kinds of items the patients have on their Christmas wish lists, to coordinate this special toy drive that leaves many recipients feeling surprised – but most importantly – seen. 

“It’s such an awesome moment, seeing someone’s face light up,” Casey explained, recalling the time she watched a young patient open a gift right in front of her in 2019. “She had no idea it was going to happen – she was just going in for a doctor’s appointment.”

Due to the pandemic, Casey unfortunately lost a little bit of that human interaction this year with everyone wearing masks and having to social distance, but if anything, COVID-19 propelled the MMP’s efforts forward even more, with Casey being fully committed to delivering the magic of the Christmas season to those in need.

As part of the holiday initiative, Casey and her dedicated team of volunteers and elves successfully completed two donation drop-offs in December – one on the 18th and one on Christmas Eve, the latter of which oversaw the drop-off of more than 300 toys, stuffed animals, and hundreds of dollars in gift cards for kids and families spending their holiday in the hospital.

To pull this off, Casey – with the help of her family and town community members – had spent long nights labeling boxes and packages, and adding “Mighty Meredith” stickers to every gift so patients could see that their presents had been personally wrapped just for them. Rather than viewing the process as a laborious undertaking, Casey cherishes the campaign like one would a time-honored tradition because of her own personal experience living with a TBI.

“Whenever I would go in for a treatment or procedure, I’d go into my procedure room and there would be a gift on my bed. I would always leave with something, like a gift card or blanket,” she stated. “People would come out of the woodwork for me and show their kindness. I saw that and thought, ‘I don’t want this to end for other people…I wanted to turn around and give back to those in similar situations as me.’”

In past years, Meredith and her family held huge gift wrapping parties, which were a lot of fun. Since that was not possible this year they received additional assistance from other local families who helped wrap gifts, including members of the NRHS National Honor Society. NHS students volunteered to pick up bags of gifts, bring them home to wrap and return them to the Caseys, all while maintaining social distancing and wearing masks.

In addition, a two-day drive-through Fill the Box event hosted by the North Reading Masons during the first weekend in December was also very much appreciated by the Casey family. It provided much-needed exposure for this year’s toy drive by filling the void created from the closure of many businesses and limited foot traffic in other businesses that had previously served as Fill the Box drop-off locations.

$20,000 goal reached

The MMP is proud to announce that thanks to generous donors, they have succeeded in their fundraising goal of $20,000, which means that in the coming year they will aim to go even bigger. Their third and biggest drop-off of Fill the Box gifts will occur after the holidays, most likely later this month, followed by additional drop-offs coinciding with Brain Injury Awareness Month in March.

Casey’s nonprofit organization is always open and grateful for donations, as hospitals do not have the funds to make individual purchases for patients and would not be able to conduct an initiative as wide-scale and grandiose as hers.

Casey’s tireless efforts have landed her in magazine and news channel features year after year; she was most recently interviewed by NBC Boston and New England Cable News in December, where she discussed the 2020 Fill the Box Campaign and her own motivation to spread cheer, kindness, and positivity.

Surprise grant received

Recently, the MMP was nominated for a $1,000 Cummings Foundation grant by a North Reading resident, an honor Casey was unaware she had been awarded until she received the check in the mail.

MMP Scholarship for Kindness

Additionally, the MMP’s 2021 Scholarship for Kindness will be opening up to North Reading High School seniors this month, It will require applicants to submit a short essay on how they exhibit kindness in their everyday lives. Casey emphasized that every senior is eligible for this scholarship, as she and her family try their hardest to “base the scholarship off of someone’s character, not the amount of community service hours they complete,” she stated.

Community members interested in aiding Casey’s Fill the Box March 2021 initiative can visit the Amazon Wishlist on her website at www.mightymeredith.com to make a donation.

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