Sarah Hamblin of Fincastle is a seventh grader at Central Academy Middle School who looks forward to her spring birthday every year, but not for the reasons you make think. As her birthday draws near she doesn’t wish for presents, rather she wishes for plenty of Easter baskets instead.

Sarah Hamblin (left) and her friend Olivia Turner hand out Easter baskets at the Botetourt Food Pantry last year.

Sarah is now in her eighth year of collecting Easter baskets for children in need in Botetourt County through her charity, “Operation: Easter Bunny.”

She started her charity just before her fifth birthday when she decided she didn’t need birthday gifts and wanted instead to help Botetourt County children at Easter. That first year she received 30 baskets that she handed out at the Botetourt Food Pantry.

Over the years, Sarah’s charity has grown. Last year she collected a record 187 baskets for a total collection of over 740 baskets over the past seven years.

She now donates Easter baskets not only to the children served by the Botetourt Food Pantry, but also to all the students served by the Backpack Buddies program at all seven Botetourt County elementary schools, and to families served by the Botetourt Resource Center.

In years past, she has been able to send additional Easter baskets to children at the Roanoke Rescue Mission and last year to the girls at Teen Challenge in Botetourt County. She still personally hands out the Easter baskets at the Botetourt Food Pantry each year.

For 2017, Sarah has a new goal. She is hoping for enough monetary donations to make special Easter baskets for the children at Roanoke Memorial Children’s Hospital.

Last year she wanted to bring Easter baskets to the children in the hospital but learned that they are not allowed to have candy in their Easter baskets due to dietary restrictions. However, there are many other items they can receive in the baskets such as toys, stuffed animals, games and coloring books.

She hopes to be able to buy those items and create the special baskets with the help of her friends.

Sarah needs to get Easter baskets to all the elementary schools a week earlier than in past years due to a change in the Botetourt County spring break calendar. This means all donations must be made during March to meet the deadline for delivery to the elementary schools.

Baskets may be dropped off now until Friday, March 31 in one of the “Operation: Easter Bunny” collection boxes located throughout Botetourt County.

Collection boxes are located at:

• St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Daleville,

• Church of the Transfiguration in Fincastle,

• Orchard Hills Church in Bonsack and

• The Swinging Bridge Café on Main Street in Buchanan.

Baskets can be homemade or store bought, may include new toys, candy, games, books and clothes, and must be securely wrapped in cellophane gift basket bags.

Easter baskets are for children ages newborn to 12 and any baskets designed for a specific age or gender should be labeled.

A list of guidelines for donations is available at each basket collection site and on the “Operation Easter Bunny VA” Facebook page.

Sarah encourages Scout troops, church groups and other organizations to help make Easter baskets for donation.

Last year the Circle of Mary women’s group at Church of the Transfiguration in Fincastle made over 40 Easter baskets for donation. They plan to do the same this year and Sarah is looking forward to spending an evening in March with them while they create the baskets.

Monetary donations are also accepted and used exclusively to purchase additional Easter baskets and basket supplies. Donations can be mailed to: Sarah Hamblin, Operation: Easter Bunny, P.O. Box 919, Daleville, 24083. Make checks payable to Operation: Easter Bunny.

Sarah’s charity is a non-profit ministry of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church. All donations are tax deductible.

For further information, contact Sarah or her mom, Ann-Marie Hamblin, at 992-6092. Sarah thanks the people of Botetourt County for their continued support of her charity.

Inco-Check