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Miss Teen Pennsylvania International Makes the Jared Box Project Her Mission

by on June 17, 2019 5:00 AM


For most area teenagers, Monday, June 10, probably went by like any other day. For Alivia Jacobs, June 10 found her standing on the floor of the Pennsylvania Senate, being introduced by Sen. Judy Ward, after Gov. Tom Wolf signed a proclamation declaring the day as Jared Box Day.  It was just three days after her graduation from Bellwood-Antis High School in Blair County.

Alivia Jacobs has made The Jared Box Project her mission.

The daughter of Jim and Lisa Jacobs of Altoona, Alivia currently holds the title of Miss Teen Pennsylvania International. As a pageant contestant, Alivia met Cindy Kolarik, executive director of the Jared Box project and, according to Alivia, “I knew that I wanted to continue to use this organization to make a difference.”

The Jared Box project was started after Jared McMullen, a 6-year-old boy from State College, lost his battle with brain cancer in 2000. His friends and the community at Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church and school wanted to do something to honor Jared. During his illness, when Jared traveled to facilities to receive what were usually long and painful treatments, he carried a backpack with toys and activities to help pass the time. He often asked why other children he saw in the waiting or treatment rooms didn’t have the same things to do. In memory of Jared, the Jared Box Project was born.

A Jared Box is a plastic, shoebox sized container, filled with new small toys, books, drawing and coloring activities and games. Jared Boxes are available in hospital pediatric units, emergency rooms and other treatment facilities for children who are receiving treatments. There are boxes for infants, toddlers, children and teens. What makes The Jared Box Project so incredible is that the efforts stay local. Operating from State College, the Jared Box Project provides instructions and suggestions through their website to help organizations build boxes for the ill or injured infants and toddlers, school-aged children and teenagers who live in their community. Inside each box is a card that shares Jared’s story and the mission of the Jared Box Project. To date, over 400,000 children have received Jared Boxes in all 50 states in the U.S. and four other countries such as Canada and Mexico.   

The Jared Box mission struck home for Alivia when the Miss Central PA pageant made it their service project. Alivia had watched a child in her neighborhood fight the same battle as Jared. “I knew I had to get involved,” she said.  As a high school student, Alivia also served as the fundraising chair for Bellwood-Antis’ Mini-THON, helping to raise over $25,000 to support Penn State’s Four Diamonds Fund.

Alivia Jacobs with assembled Jared Boxes to be delivered to hospitals. Photo provided

As a pageant winner, Alivia has designated Jared Boxes as her individual service project. From helping local Scout troops build boxes to reaching out to hospitals in Canada, “There is no one who has done more for Jared Boxes than Alivia,” Kolarik said.

I had the pleasure of meeting Alivia and her mother at The Greek in State College on Jared Box Night earlier this year. A percentage of the proceeds from that evening’s dinner service were donated to the Jared Box project. Alivia stood at the door, donning her sash and greeting guests. Most importantly, she shared her excitement about the project with The Greek’s patrons.  

It was Alivia who reached out to Sen. Judy Ward, who then helped to push the Jared Box Day proclamation through the Governor’s office.  

“It always inspires me to meet a young person who is so committed to community service” said Ward, whose district includes Blair County. “It lifts me up. Alivia is a wonderful role model for other young people.”  Ward introduced Alivia on the Senate floor and arranged for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Capitol for Alivia and her parents.

State Sen. Judy Ward, Miss Teen Pennsylvania International Alivia Jacobs and her parents, Lisa and Jim Jacobs, at the Pennsylvania Capitol following the official declaration of June 10 as Jared Box Day. 

Alivia will attend Penn State at University Park in the fall with plans to major in broadcast journalism with an emphasis is sports journalism. She wants to get involved with THON and hopes to build a collaboration between THON and The Jared Box project.  She also plans to continue her efforts with Jared Boxes and hopes to grow the project internationally.

“Unfortunately, there are sick children all over the world,” Alivia said. “I want to share this project with more children.”  She is currently working with a representative from the local Kiwanis Club, a group that is a supporting partner of Jared Boxes, to take the project to the Kiwanis Club’s international conference in Paris.  

In addition to rubbing elbows with the Pennsylvania legislature, Alivia is collaborating with the Altoona Curve to sponsor a Jared Box Night coming up on June 28.  Attendees that night are encouraged to bring a toy or game for the Jared Boxes and can learn more about how their families or organizations they belong to can build Jared Boxes for local communities. Altoona Curve players plan to build Jared Boxes and deliver them to UPMC Pittsburgh Children’s hospital. A similar Jared Box Night is scheduled for the State College Spikes on July 9.

“She has been an incredible ambassador for Jared Boxes” said Kolarik.  “It just goes to show how the power of one person can make a difference.  I have been so impressed by her devotion as well as poise for someone her age.”

June 10, 2019.  Just another day for most teens.  A very special day for Alivia Jacobs.

Cindy Kolarik and Alivia Jacobs on Jared Box Night at The Greek in State College.


Patty Kleban is an instructor at Penn State, mother of three and a community volunteer. She is a Penn State Alumna. Readers of State College Magazine voted her Best Writer of 2010 and 2012. She and her family live in Patton Township. Her views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State.
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