New Children’s Book Tells the Story of The Jared Box Project

Tex the Explorer and The Jared Box Project, a newly published children’s book, shares the
tribulations of an imaginary T-rex as a way to highlight the unique story of The Jared Box Project and its mission of spreading kindness. The book will be included in Jared Boxes and also distributed to school libraries, medical offices, and hospitals.

The Jared Box Project is a nonprofit organization based in Centre County that aims to bring joy and smiles to children in hospitals across the country. Jared Boxes are plastic shoe boxes filled with small gifts, toys, cards, games, and other fun activities. Boxes are made by local community groups and given to children in emergency rooms, hospital rooms, surgical centers, and clinics. Over one million Jared Boxes have been made in all 50 states and given to children in more than 500 hospitals.

In the new book, Tex the dinosaur falls off of this scooter ends up in the emergency department, and receives a Jared Box. The story showcases the positive impact of a Jared Box, and the kindness of others, and inspires young readers to perform their own acts of kindness.

Local author Ellie Smith, a retired special education teacher originally from Maryland, developed the story. She met Eyen Johnson, the book’s illustrator when he was in kindergarten and they first discussed creating a book together when he was in fifth grade. The duo published their first book when Johnson graduated from high school. Tex the Explorer and The Jared Box Project is their sixth book together in the series.

“We are honored and excited to have a book that tells a sweet story of how Jared Boxes are putting smiles on the faces of children (and dinosaurs!) in the hospitals,” said Cindy Kolarik, executive director of The Jared Box Project. “The story shows young readers that they can help others too. It was such a pleasure working with Ellie, and I am just so impressed with the incredible artwork by Eyen. This book is the perfect addition to Jared Boxes. We will also use the book to raise overall awareness about Jared Boxes.” Smith and Kolarik met about ten months ago at a local baseball game, beginning the collaboration that inspired the new book.

“As Eyen has said many times, ‘We are helping children learn to read and to enjoy reading.’ However, I think we both felt that something was missing from what we were doing–some purpose for our work together,” Smith explained. “I donated a few of our books to The Jared Box Project, and the rest is history. Eyen, Tex, and I are so honored to have been asked to help tell Jared’s story and to now be part of the Jared Box family –– purpose found.”

“Tex the Explorer and The Jared Box Project makes me feel beyond blessed and grateful! I was so honored to get the opportunity to help Ellie create a book for the Jared Box Project and honor the life of Jared McMullen. May parents with children in the hospital continue to have faith that their children are going to be ok. May Tex the Explorer and The Jared Box Project entertain and bring smiles, hope, and happiness to children around the world,” Johnson added.

While Smith and Johnson donated their time and talent for the book project, contributions from The Jared Box Project’s supporters will help to fund future efforts to include the book in boxes. Anyone interested in supporting the initiative or donating directly may do so via the website at Copies may also be purchased online at Amazon.

About The Jared Box Project 

The project was started in 2001 by the children of Our Lady of Victory School in State College, Pennsylvania, to honor their classmate, Jared, who battled cancer with courage and faith. Jared was diagnosed with an incurable brainstem tumor in 1999. He carried a backpack full of toys and games to all appointments and questioned why the other children didn’t bring toys to their exam rooms. Jared shared his toys and invited the other children to join him in a game of UNO. At just 5 years old, he demonstrated faith, wisdom, and compassion for others. 

After Jared passed away, his classmates decided to honor him by creating Jared Boxes. The school children made 81 Jared Boxes for the children at Geisinger Janet Weis Children’s Hospital in Danville, Pennsylvania. Soon after that, other community groups started making Jared Boxes. They picked up where Jared left off and shared toys with the children in the hospital. This wave of kindness quickly took off and spread across the country.

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