Never underestimate the giving nature of the children in the community. This year the Tots for Tots program, which was held at the Sixth Grade Center, helped save the day for needy children all over the city.
The program works in conjunction with Helping Hands of Ennis to match gifts with families that sign up to be adopted. There were 233 families that registered for aid this year, which represented 620 children, all of whom will have gifts under the tree thanks in part to the efforts of the fifth and sixth grader students at the Sixth Grade Center.
Under the direction of physical education teacher Jeanie Spaniel, the group began donating their spare change and began donating their spare change and in some cases, their allowance to help raise money to buy gifts for the children in the Helping Hands program. Their fund-raising efforts lasted two weeks with the top classes from each grade hitting the stores to buy the gifts needed for each child. The grand total of their hard work saw the school raise $5,000.
“We really have a great group of kids that were so excited at the opportunity to help out. They gave from their own money and wanted to make a difference. We actually raised just shy of $5,000 and when we told that to the kids, we had about 20 kids stand up and promise the rest of the money until we reached our goal,” said Spaniel.
The motivation behind the actions of the students is something Helping Hands executive director Jo Wesley loves to hear about every year and with each passing holiday season is reminded that if given the opportunity, kids will look out for each other.
“I think the reason the Tots for Tots campaign is so successful is because the kids are raising money to buy presents for other kids and they can relate to what it would feel like to wake up Christmas morning with nothing waiting under the tree. They are motivated by their desire to make a difference in the lives of children just like themselves and that is a great lesson to learn any time of the year, not just the holiday season,” Wesley said.
The children also surprised their principal, Bobby White by stepping up to the challenge of raising $1,000 in one day. As a result of their efforts, White kept his word and donned an elf costume, much to the amusement of the students.
Local businesses also contributed to the children's efforts and in the end, recruits had to be called in to help wrap the gifts so they could be bagged and distributed. Students from the high school and staff members started wrapping gifts at the beginning of the school day and finished some 12 hours later.
Organizers say that the event is always a favorite among the students but this year was extra special because of the staggering number of children added to the list.
“The achievement of the children and the community this year is really special because we had the largest request for aid this year. The community stepped up and helped out when others needed it most and that is really what the season is meant to be about,” Wesley said.
Wesley and Spaniel, along with their respective organization s have taken a break from the rush of the season this year and are already planning ways to meet the need for next year.