Students in teacher Nancy O’Connor’s business management elective have been making fleece blankets for the desperately ill children and their families at Ronald McDonald House of Long Island in New Hyde Park.
O’Connor has been facilitating the project for the past 10 years from profits the fledgling tycoons earned by managing the school’s student store. This year, though, she was the recipient of a $500 Business Teachers Association of New York grant, which covered the kits’ costs from which they make the end product.
“My goal was to help them understand that business people also have a social responsibility to their communities,” O’Connor said.
“Mrs. O’Connor gave us these blankets, and we tied them together,” explained 13-year-old Alexandra Beck. “We like to do it to give back to all the sick kids.” She enrolled in the elective course “because I thought it would be interesting. My dad owns a restaurant in Wantagh [Bunker Hill American Taproom],” she said. “He came to our school last week.”
The blankets don’t take any sewing, 13 year-old Alexandra explained. “They’re two big pieces that have ties around the edges.” It takes a team of five students about a half-hour to assemble each blanket.
Michael Byrnes liked being able to see how the children live at Ronald McDonald House. “We saw the rooms where the families stay,” he said. “People can stay as long as they need to, even up to a year,” Michael isn’t sure what kind of business he wants to have at this point. His great-uncle owns a bar, but he said he wasn’t sure he wanted to be in the bar business. Nor was he entirely certain whether he was interested in business or just money. But he had a practical solution: “I want a business that makes money,” he said.
Jessica Balkunas was much more definite in her dream. “Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to open a cheerleading gym,” she said. “I want to learn the things I’ll need to know — like how to make a business plan.”
All three were enthusiastic about the project. “I just want to give back to all the sick kids in the hospital,” Alexandra said.
The blankets had texts printed on them, by turns whimsical or inspirational. Michael and his team made a blanket with a Viking motif and the legend, “Weekend Warrior.” Alexandra and Jessica and their team tied together a baby blue comforter with the recommendation to “Dream Big.”
As entrepreneurs, the students have until the end of the semester to develop their own products or services and then devise business plans that they will then present in their own Shark-Tank Challenges.
Whoever wins the challenge, students will have been given a solid boost up the corporate ladder. They will have studied different kinds of businesses, from partnerships and corporations to nonprofits. And they will have been reminded of the ancient adage about giving in order to receive.