GROTON -- At a time of year when most are making their holiday list and checking it twice, local school children are inspired to give something meaningful to help others who are in need.
Fourth-grade students at Florence Roche Elementary School organized "One Day Fun Day," a dollar drive to raise money for the Red Cross, specifically Hurricane Sandy victims.
"We so love to encourage this generosity and sense of community," said teacher Ellen Potter. According to Potter, the idea came to a small group of students who were excited to help families in need.
"No matter what way you lose your home, it still hurts and it's hard to accept. When people help you, it makes you feel good knowing someone's there to help, you know everything is going to be okay," said fourth-grader Lily Huff, whose home was damaged by fire in October.
With the support from their teachers, students planned the fundraiser with posters and announcements and then collected donations from each classroom, raising close to $500.
Russell Hoyt, principal, said he was amazed but not surprised by how thoughtful and selfless the students are, saying, "It is a time of year when many children naturally move on from the giving thoughts of Thanksgiving to the "I hope to get" aspect of winter holidays."
At Swallow Union Elementary School in Dunstable, students collected more than 1,400 pounds of food for the Merrimack Valley Food Bank in Lowell, according to teacher Kathleen Vargeletis. "The students learned that together we can make a difference. Everyone giving a little can have a great impact on helping others," said Vargeletis.
"The Merrimack Valley Food Bank has been honored by the generosity of the faculty, staff, students and families at SW for several years," said Amy Pessia, executive director. Pessia expressed that the students realize their donations help with a basic need by providing food to people of all ages and cultures.
For Peter Myerson, principal, the annual event demonstrates the kindness of the school community. "Our students and their families should be very proud of their accomplishment with this food drive," Myerson said.
Groton-Dunstable Middle School students participated in their annual fundraiser, "Project Mitten," which benefits the Community Children's Fund (a gift account managed by the Commissioners of Trust Funds that offers assistance to families of school-age children), scholarships for summer camps and the eighth grade Washington, D.C. trip.
A school assembly was held to kick off the project where members of the student council read the book, "The Mitten" by Jan Brett. The story tells about several woodland animals, including a mouse and a bear, who share a found mitten for shelter and warmth.
Alexa Dries, sixth-grade, thought the story was a good way to get the project's message across to students, saying, "It's better to work together and make a better community."
Student Council President Travis Anctil, eighth-grade, addressed his school expressing how people affected by the economy may need assistance during the holidays and that giving to others makes you feel happy and proud. "Instead of focusing on what you are getting for Christmas, think about how you can make someone else's Christmas dreams come true," said Anctil.
To raise funds, each grade at the middle school planned $1 activities such as a turkey trot, a hat day, a read-a-thon, teach a different subject day and raffle baskets. Grace Remillard, seventh-grade, said close to $8,000 was raised last year, and this year's goal is $10,000.
Steve Silverman, principal, said he looks forward to "Project Mitten" every year and that it teaches students, not just during the holiday season but throughout the year, how to give to people who may have needs.
"It's a cute little story about giving shelter and that's what the fundraiser is for, to help children around Groton and Dunstable that are needy," said Michael DiFranco, fifth-grade, adding, "It's nice to know if you were in a financial crisis that there is someone who wants to give."