On July 19, the Hutto City Council voted unanimously to pass an ordinance to offer the Saul House property to The Sandbox at Madeline’s Place at no cost. The 501(c)(3) will be responsible for the utilities, upkeep and maintenance of the property.

 The new permanent location will allow the Sandbox at Madeline’s Place to grow programs and expand new opportunities where young people can come to the center to do their homework and spend time together.

 “The most important thing is that our youth has a place to build trust with adults, have fun together and build and grow friendships so they don’t feel alone,” said Billie Logiudice, Program Director of The Sandbox at Madeline’s Place.

 The organization hosts social events, tournaments and sports leagues:

  • “Grades & Grub” dinner, hang-out time with homework help for middle and high school students
  • Teens4Teens Awareness and Prevention
  • Wrestling Club
  • Summer Volleyball League

The organization also encourages community service, supporting the Hutto Lion’s Club and Hutto Food Pantry, as well as within the schools which they attend.

 “I think it’s an awesome program,” said Councilmember Tim Jordan. “We have a lot of youth in our community and we just don’t have anything like this for them.”

 The organization started after the death of Madeline Claire Haynes, a Hutto High School student and athlete. She took her own life on December 3, 2012. There were no signs or indications that she was suffering and felt such despair. Because this act was so out of character, the message of “Be Honest. Be Kind. Speak Up” was started so teens could navigate adolescence more successfully. Friends and family say Madeline outwardly had zest for life, and was funny, caring and a real friend.

 “The concept of the Sandbox has not changed. We started off with a desire to help teens navigate adolescence with a healthy sense of self and that is what still try to do today,” said Logiudice. “We had a strong desire to spread the message of Be Honest. Be Kind. Speak Up. As we feel any of those things would have changed our tragic day, but that those values can help in any number of situations in teens' lives.”

 Councilmember Terri Grimm, who has a child survivor, commented on how important this ordinance is to our community and its teens, saying that had their family known about it, their situation could have been avoided altogether. Many families need to know about the resources The Sandbox at Madeline’s Place provides, she added.

 The Sandbox at Madeline’s Place has one full-time employee and two part-time students who run the day-to-day operations. The organization relies heavily on volunteers, and also has partnerships with licensed counselors to offer support as needed.

 The Sandbox at Madeline’s Place caters to middle school and high school students ranging from 12 to 18 years of age with the exception of the wrestling club which hosts children ages 5 to 18. The program serves approximately 120 students per month for “Grades & Grub”. It’s an opportunity for teens to come together, enjoy a meal and get help with homework. They also have anywhere from 20 to 80 people attend special events. 

 The Sandbox at Madeline’s Places says their most popular activities are the sand volleyball tournaments and there is talk of installing two courts so they can host tournaments.

 If you are interested in volunteering or learning more, please visit the http://thesandboxatmadelinesplace.org.