Local students forming fundraiser for sensory rooms for local girls academy

Elizabethton High School juniors Lexi Lopez, Abby Markley and Riley McKinney are preparing a fundraiser via a community yard sale, selling items of interest to benefit the East Tennessee Christian Home and Academy in the name of creating “sensory rooms” for the academy’s residents.

They said the project comes from a group assignment as part of their involvement with the Bartleby Program.

“Something that is big on our hearts is the youth here,” McKinney said.

As the girls started brainstorming places to possibly bring a community project to, Markley said she quickly thought of ETCHA, since her mother works there and she used to live there for many years.

“A lot of the girls have dealt with childhood trauma,” Markley said. “Some of the girls are as young as 12.”

ETCHA does not receive state funding, meaning just about all of their income in order to remain operational comes from community donations or other contributions.

As a result, they said they want to raise as much money for their sensory rooms, roughly $3,000 to $4,000, as possible in this one yard sale.

As for why sensory rooms, the students said people often overlook the need for such accommodations.

“Everyone has special needs,” Markley said.

Especially in a place where many residents have trauma that may require quiet alone time, she said the rooms allow the residents to escape all the noise and potentially harmful environments in peace.

“One girl was adopted from another country, and others do not have parents anymore,” she said.

For an organization that does not rely on government funding whatsoever, the students said ETCHA often goes completely unnoticed by the community.

“They have been here for about 70 years,” McKinney said. “They do not have the money to advertise.”

They said the project has been inspiring ever since they first pitched the idea.

“I am most excited to see what these rooms can do for them,” McKinney said.

If the yard sale does not raise enough money, they have a back-up plan to work on an existing office space for the residents to use during their schooling, but their ultimate goal is to build several new rooms altogether.

For those interested in participating in the yard sale, it will take place Saturday, Oct. 5, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the EHS student parking lot.

Those interested in setting up a table can rent one for $25 each.

For more information about the yard sale or the project as a whole, they said they have social media pages on Facebook and Instagram, at project_you_are_more.

“Our goal is to get the word out [about ETCHA],” McKinney said. “It is a family.”

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