breaking news

Man found shot in the head in Dayton home has died, coroner said

2 Oakwood girls collect 600 blankets for charity

Warm Hugs foundation helps Hispanic children.


Oakwood eighth-graders Cecille Figueroa and Dasha Penas-Johnson started Warm Hugs — Blankets With Love 18 months ago after noticing children living in difficult conditions. They started collecting blankets for Hispanic children. The first partial year they garnered 300 “warm hugs,” plus $1,000 in donations.

››RELATED: YMCA helps family with 2 sets of twins

Recently Harman School and Smith Elementary in Oakwood collected more than 100 blankets. The young students were told they could wear pajamas to school for a $1 donation to the charity. Those children helped the girls collect over 600 blankets this past year, with funds for packing and distribution. The pair have received $6,000 in donations this past year.

“The purpose [is to] symbolically give a warm hug through a cozy blanket, that will not only keep [Hispanic children] warm but will make them feel loved,” as stated on their Facebook page.

Figueroa was born in Puerto Rico and moved to Dayton with her family when she was 6 years old. Penas-Johnson’s dad, Francisco Penas, is from Segovia, Spain. She was born in Ohio. Their mission is to provide blankets to Hispanic immigrant children in the Miami Valley area who lack basic necessities.

“The support we have received from our community, particularly our schools, has been amazing. To know the schools we once attended wanted to do something to help us was a great feeling,” said Figueroa, 14. “Growing up going to Smith and Harman, we remember how we were encouraged to help and have empathy toward others. We learned very strong values in the ‘Harmanize’ and GRIT programs that we apply today.”

Figueroa and her mother, Lourdes Narvaez Soto, had the initial idea for the project a year and a half ago. It got off the ground as a nonprofit about six months after that.

“Cecille and I have worked on this together. Right away when they came to me [with the idea] I was overjoyed to join,” said Penas-Johnson, 14. “Together we focused on [contacting] churches for how many blankets they needed in kid-friendly designs.”

The list of local churches: St. John the Baptist Church, Tipp City; St. Mary’s Church, Dayton; St. Teresa Church, New Carlisle; St. Patrick Church, Troy; and Sacred Heart Church, New Carlisle. The girls will attend the various Sunday services when they bring the blankets.

In addition to churches, they’ve distributed blankets to the Del Puenete Tutoring Center in Dayton, Springfield City School District, Project Women in Springfield, and Su Casa in Cincinnati. They’ve expanded their reach quite a bit this year.

“We have an alliance with Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley at the border in Texas. When the children cross the border they stay at temporary housing,” said Penas-Johnson. It is very cold inside. They come in with short sleeves, T-shirts and shorts, so they’re not prepared for it.”

Besides the charity, Penas-Johnson is also busy with cheerleading, basketball and track at Oakwood Junior High. She and Figueroa have been friends for three years.

Figueroa is also a cheerleader and ran track this year. She’s also an equestrian who’s been riding horses for the past 10 years.

“I really just want to really let other kids know if they have an idea to help others, go for it and don’t hold back,” said Penas-Johnson. “As long as you have that good intention it will lead to a good outcome.”

››READ THIS NEXT: Foster care program reaching out

Contact this contributing writer at PamDillon@woh.rr.com.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

5 multi-million dollar projects transforming Kettering
5 multi-million dollar projects transforming Kettering

Several multi-million dollar projects are transforming what the Kettering community will look like for years to come. The projects around the city are designed to improve infrastructure, business development, public service and education. Check out five projects that are transforming this Miami Valley community: A ribbon-cutting and open house for...
‘Dayton beer royalty’ getting hitched. Prost! Cheers! Sláinte!
‘Dayton beer royalty’ getting hitched. Prost! Cheers! Sláinte!

Sara Levin and Gus Stathes have a love born in a brew. It makes sense that he popped “the question” to her surrounded by Dayton brews.  Gus,  the co-owner of The Barrel House at 417 E. Third St. with Sara, popped the question to her Thursday, May 17 at Warped Wing Brewing Company’s Mr. Mean Funkfest.  The...
Rain delays force Lakota track star to miss graduation. Here’s the surprise he got today.
Rain delays force Lakota track star to miss graduation. Here’s the surprise he got today.

Dustin Horter watched his dreams of graduating with his Lakota East High School classmates wash away last Friday in a series of rain delays at his state-qualifying track meet. A half-dozen downpours kept the track state champion — and one of the most honored student athletes in Lakota East’s history — from finishing his runs and then...
Police: Florida man tasered after walking naked through neighborhood carrying cooking oil
Police: Florida man tasered after walking naked through neighborhood carrying cooking oil

A Florida man was arrested Thursday for allegedly walking naked through a neighborhood during a rainstorm and carrying cooking oil, the Pensacola News Journal reported. Joseph John Musso, 63, was charged with loitering and prowling, lewd and lascivious behavior, resisting an officer without violence and exposure of sexual organs, the Santa Rosa...
Officials: 2 Oklahoma construction workers OK after falling from 3-story building 
Officials: 2 Oklahoma construction workers OK after falling from 3-story building 

Two Oklahoma construction workers are apparently OK after falling from a three-story building in Oklahoma City, KFOR reported Monday. Oklahoma City firefighters were called to the downtown building Monday morning. Two men were working on a building when they fell, authorities said. The workers were taken to a hospital because of the height...
More Stories