SPRINGFIELD, Ohio (WDTN) – A college student here used her story and $500 to pay it forward Friday.
Wittenberg University sophomore Leah Bennett was one of seven young adults and children across the country participating in a campaign with Big Lots and Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
Funds raised from customer donations at Big Lots stores funded $500 dollar shopping sprees for the individuals to purchase toys and arts supplies for children in the hospital.
Big Lots C.E.O. David Campisi said, “We decided as an executive team, after touring the hospital, how critically important the work is that they do, not only for Ohio, but for all fifty states and fifty-plus countries.”
The customer-based initiative has raised nearly $10 million since October 2015.
Bennett, 19, was pleased to give back to Nationwide Children’s, where she’s been receiving treatment for ADHD, depression and anxiety since she was a sophomore in high school. Both of Bennett’s parents passed away by the time she was a teenager and at the depths of her depression, she was contemplating suicide.
“It was stressful and really scary,” said Bennett. “I felt alone. I felt like people didn’t understand my situation or wouldn’t want to.”
Bennett credits Nationwide Children’s Hospital for helping her manage her mental illness and she wanted to participate in the shopping spree to spark a conversation about mental health and let other young patients know they aren’t alone.
“For the kids out there, like me and the other kids in hospital, the last thing we need is for people to think that it’s a problem with ourselves,” said Bennett. “We can’t fight it alone. We need the help of other people to understand our situation, put effort in and not be quiet about it.”