Fort Mill girl, 8, finds talent for helping others

jmarks@fortmilltimes.comJune 11, 2014 

  • Want to help?

    Palmetto School always has a needs list. Current items are AA and AAA batteries; gift cards to Wal-Mart, Target, Staples, Office Depot and grocery stores; gas station gift cards or donations for buses; donations of paper towels, tissues, hand sanitizer, antibacterial wipes, disinfectant spray, rubber boots for ages from kindergarten through third, gardening tools, canvas smocks and equipment for science labs.

    For more information on the school, call 803-328-6555 or visit thepalmettoschool.org.

— If you could buy a bus on cuteness, Fiona Puzzio and her friends would have a fleet.

Fiona, 8, finished second grade at Springfield Elementary School on June 5. She spent that afternoon putting on the homemade talent show that she had organized the past two months. Which, at $3 admission and $2 for food, raised more than $200 for the Palmetto School in Rock Hill.

“Some people are doing magic tricks, hula-hooping, singing,” Fiona said.

Fiona, who showed off her taekwondo skills, made fliers and promoted the backyard event among Girl Scouts friends and their kid brothers. She has been to the Children’s Attention Home with her mom, Dawn La Clair, and wanted to help. The home assists abused, neglected, abandoned or homeless children in York County; Fiona particularly wanted to help its Palmetto School.

“I’m hoping they’ll be able to buy food,” Fiona said, “and a bus, if they have enough money.”

Doing their part were Kate Webster, 8, singing from the “Frozen” soundtrack and jump roper Caitlin Young, 8. Ryan Marescalco, 8, added her skills, too, and it looked like she had been practicing magic every bit of two months.

“Since April 13,” she said. “I was just doing it for the show.”

Brianna Walsh, 8, and Paisley Marescalco, 5, tried out some stand-up material before the show.

“Why is six afraid of seven? Because seven ate nine,” and, “What’s the only bus that can travel across the sea? Christopher Colum-bus,” were hits.

For the show, both would-be comedians stuck to synchronized hula-hooping. They followed Jadyn Loftis, 8, who hooped solo.

“I was very impressed,” an attending mother, Kim Young, said about Fiona and the show, which included two of Young’s children. “She’s a neat young girl.”

Not quite in a galaxy far, far away, Austin Young was the lone boy in the lineup. Austin, 5, finished the show with some intense lightsaber skills. Afterward, he showed off the weapon, and he wasn’t shy sharing where he learned his moves.

“I got them from myself,” he said.

Hugh Wilson, principal at Palmetto School, said occasionally a child will donate an allowance or gifts from a birthday party to his group. The talent show idea is new.

“That was a sweet gesture,” Wilson said. “It’s great that a child that young can have that much philanthropy.”

Wilson could use more gestures like Fiona’s. Founded in 2004, Palmetto School is a charter school serving up to 36 students per day. It’s located at Children’s Attention Home but is its own separate nonprofit. The school also serves children from Pilgrim’s Inn, Safe Passage and foster care statewide.

The Rock Hill School District sponsors Palmetto School, which has to raise 60 percent of its own funding. The average student spends 60 days there. Palmetto School let out for summer the same day Fiona’s class did.

Redistricting will send Fiona to a new school next year, Fort Mill Elementary. Palmetto School students generally aren’t there year-to-year, but by the month or even days. Continued need at Palmetto is why Fiona and her friends want to continue the talent show as a Girl Scouts event, community project or perhaps even a last-day-of-school tradition.

“What a great way to celebrate the last day of school,” La Clair, Fiona’s mom, said.

John Marks •  803-831-8166

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