When Janelle Robinson, president of the Stettler and District Hamper Society, was told that students of William E. Hay Secondary Campus had raised money for the Christmas Hamper program, she expected a few thousand dollars.
Instead, she received $11,000, a sum that left her “absolutely flabbergasted.”
“I’m just shocked and so honoured,” she said. “To have all that energy put out way? There’s no words.”
The school has always fundraised at Christmas, but for the past several years that energy has been devoted to Operation Christmas Child, which fills up shoe boxes with items for children in need around the world. This year, after a group of teachers and students approached Principal Norbert Baharally with the idea of directing the fundraising attention locally instead of internationally, the school got on board with a change in direction.
Retiring teacher Doug Gregory, who finishes up his career at the end of this school year, “planted the seed,” Baharally said. From there, it was teachers and students who did all the work, with homeroom teachers “pounding the pavement” with the kids, and helping them think up ideas to raise money.
Some of the students did the tried-and-true fundraisers, baking up heaps of holiday treats and selling them off for handy profits. A spaghetti dinner brought in a pretty penny. Other students got creative, with one class of students auctioning off their artwork and another group of students and volunteer victims/teachers engaging in a pie-throwing contest.
One of the most creative events was “date night,” Baharally said. For $10 a person, the date nighters enjoyed a movie, popcorn and pizza, drinks, and free babysitting, offered by students of the class.
On Tuesday, Dec. 15, Gregory, fellow teacher Samantha Mielke, and student Hannah McKay joined Robinson at the FCSS office on Main Street in Stettler to present their earnings. Not only did they show up with the cheque, they also brought a car full of donated food. With the $11,000, food and toy donations, and gift cards, Baharally estimated nearly $12,000 was actually raised.
FCSS employee Patrick Kelly said “It’s unreal. It’s amazing.”
This year hamper requests are up, with 145 being requested by those in need from the community. Each “hamper” comes with food for a holiday meal as well as gifts for children, including clothes, toys and outer wear. The estimated cost of a hamper is about $250.
“When people say kids these days don’t have a sense of community, I just want to say, ‘Look at these kids!'” Gregory said. “I’m so proud of them.”