Valentine's Day mission: Kent boy collects cards for Seattle Children's Hospital

Back in November 2007, when Justin Englund was just 5 years old, he was watching a special on television about the young patients at Seattle Children's Hospital.

Kent residents

Kent residents

Back in November 2007, when Justin Englund was just 5 years old, he was watching a special on television about the young patients at Seattle Children's Hospital.

“Some of the kids looked like they weren't having such a great time,” he said.

Though Justin, now 7, remembers the special, he doesn't remember exactly what he said after that, though his mother does.

“He said, ‘I want to help kids who have cancer,'” Lani Englund recalled.

Lani said it was too close to Christmas for the family to do anything that year, but suggested Valentine's Day, remembering her own childhood, missing a Valentine's Day party at school because of chicken pox.

And with that, the Valentine's Day Project was born.

Justin, as a kindergartner, collected more than 500 valentines that year, which he and his mother delivered to Seattle Children's Hospital.

The next year, as a first-grader at Meridian Elementary, Justin again launched his Valentine's Day Project, going in to almost every classroom and making a pitch for the students to make valentines for the kids at Seattle Children's. He also expanded the project to include Neely-O'Brien Elementary.

Last year, Justin collected a total of 1,306 valentines - he knows the exact number off the top of his head.

This year - his third for the annual project - Justin collected 1,523 valentines. This batch of valentines was split between Seattle Children's and Mary Bridge Hospital in Tacoma.

In total, the valentines filled three boxes, like the ones copy paper comes in.

“Every year, it sort of gets bigger and bigger,” Lani said. “Starting right after Christmas, we begin working on valentines.”

Along with the 1,500 valentines, this year Justin also wanted to include gift bags for the kids stuck in the hospital. After a speech at the Kent Sunrise Rotary led to donations, the Englunds were able to fill 144 gift bags - each with crayons, a pencil, a sharpener, a memo pad and a hacky sack.

“He's pretty generous,” Lani said of her son. “He likes doing things for other people.”

The Englunds do not work alone, however, employing friends and relatives and getting additional help from Girl Scout Troop 14171 and a University of Washington sorority, in addition to the Kent Sunrise Rotary.

“We get help whenever we can,” Lani said.

This year, Justin collected 600 valentines from his school, with the remainder coming from Neely, Springbrook Elementary, Holy Rosary in West Seattle and Sunshine Mountain Christian pre-school, where he went before going to Meridian.

Justin said he enjoys collecting the valentines because he likes making others feel better.

“I like it,” he said of the project. “It makes people feel good, especially the kids at the hospital.”

Lani said she was very proud of her son for taking an interest in others at such a young age and said the project shows that anyone, no matter their age, can make someone's life better.

“Even as a kid you can make a big difference,” she said.

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