Program provides coats to kids

Tribune Chronicle / Bob Coupland Gabriella Miller of Niles, left, hands out bags of winter coats to Paige Dirando, 11, Skylar Lewis, 6, and Jaxson Lewis, 4, at the Courtney’s Coats for Kids program in Niles in which local children get winter coats. The program was started by the Lisa and Bob Miller family in memory of their daughter, Courtney, who was a Niles graduate and died shortly before she was to graduate from the Ohio State University.

NILES — School children up to age 12 were given coats, hats and gloves through the Courtney’s Coats for Kids program.

This was the fifth time family and friends of Courtney Miller have given out 140 winter coats, gloves and hats to local school children.

Lisa Miller, Courtney’s mother, said each coat was patched on the inside left side with a red heart in honor of Courtney.

Miller said her daughter, a 2009 Niles McKinley High School graduate who died in an auto accident in March 2013, was planning to be a middle school teacher and set to graduate with honors from the Ohio State University that spring.

Her family in the summer of 2013 decided to hold the coat giveaway in her memory.

”We all came together and because Courtney was going to be a teacher and felt this was the best way to honor her memory,” Miller said.

”We are so fortunate to have a great group of volunteers,” she said.

In addition to local children, coats were given to Betty’s Angels in Warren, Head Start and Deck My Room at the Cleveland Clinic.

Miller said winter coats can be expensive so there was a need to help families.

”We put a lot of thought into this and choose coats based on many parents’ requests of what their children will like. We look for a princess coat or coats with a favorite character on it or favorite color,” Miller said.

Miller said the coat giveaway is very heartwarming to see the reaction of the children.

”The children are so excited to receive a coat and love the heart patch inside. It is really heartwarming for us to see the smile on the kids’ faces. You never realize how much it means to a child,” Miller said.

Traci Petillo, a program volunteer, said there is such a need for coats by many families.

”They can pick the color or style they want which makes it more personal,”Petillo said.

Jamilyn Pounds of Niles spent time sewing the red heart patch into the coats.

”I have children of my own and couldn’t imagine what they were going through. This family means the world to me,” she said.

”They love seeing the heart,” Petillo said.

Helping at the event were Lisa Miller’s children Gabriella and Lauren Miller, who handed out the bags.

Angelina Purbaugh, 10, of Niles, was given a teal-colored coat.

”I think this is wonderful. This coat is my favorite color,” she said,