Ski Boxes – An Idea Born of Tragedy and Hope

By LESLIE A. PANFIL

Ohio, State Representative, Marlene Anielski, is a woman on a mission and it has nothing to do with her political career. It has everything to do with being a mother who has lost a child. Anielski's son, Joe, who was known to friends as "Ski," died suddenly and tragically at the age of 18.

"Joe was an athlete. He had many friends and was quick to come to the aid of anyone who was being bullied,” explained Anielski. “He also wanted to be significant. He wanted his legacy to be one of helping others.”

With his life cut short, Anielski took up his mantle and forged a program that could give children a venue for expressing themselves and receive the help they so desperately need. Anielski designed a wooden box, secured with a lock that allows students to jot down notes about their issues or their concerns for their friends.

The element of anonymity is particularly appealing to middle and high school students. As a new fixture in schools throughout Northeastern Ohio, counselors are working to get the message out about its existence and purpose. Many school systems are creating grass root implementation of the program through existing groups like student council and leadership groups.

While awareness of the boxes is in its infancy stages, counselors are already reporting success. Counselors have received reports of problems with friends, family and other outside sources. The box is checked on a daily basis and each lead is followed up on.

A simple concept, the Ski Box is looked upon as another vehicle for greater communication. “As a counselor, I love the idea of the Ski Box,” said Rachel Hoag, North Royalton, OH Middle School Counselor. “This will allow situations to be brought to light that usually go unreported. Counselors are now able to reach out to students who typically wouldn’t forge a conversation. It has been very successful so far.”

Anielski has hand delivered all 25 boxes that have been stationed in schools throughout northeastern Ohio. For more information on the Ski Box program, email: JoeSkiBox@aol.com.

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