Santa’s little helpers

MARSHALL – Two classrooms of third-graders, a gift list and spending money – put them together, and it’s a recipe for a particularly high-energy shopping trip. But as students from Lakeview School pushed shopping carts through the Marshall Wal-Mart last week, there was something else on their minds besides having fun. It was all about making the Christmas holiday brighter for other kids.

“It’s giving to people that don’t get a lot of presents,” said Lakeview student Jordan Fischer.

Students in the third grade at Lakeview School took a different approach to holiday giving this year. Instead of getting gifts for their teachers or to exchange with classmates, the kids pooled their money to buy presents for two anonymous families in their school district.

On Wednesday morning, 42 students, plus teachers and adult chaperones, arrived at the Marshall Wal-Mart with shopping lists in hand. The kids split into small groups of about five or six, each with their own presents to find, ranging from winter coats and boots to toys for a child of a particular age and gender.

Students said it wasn’t too hard to pick out presents for other kids, even ones who might be older or younger than them. Having their shopping lists helped a lot – although sometimes it could be tough to agree on a gift.

“We do a lot of voting,” said chaperones Amber Herigon and Sara Rausch.

Students also had to keep track of how much money they were spending. After Herigon and Rausch’s group voted to get a board game for their gift recipient, all the kids got out sheets of paper and added the price into a running total.

“Let’s get some nail polish and a hairbrush. We have enough money,” Cloie Stevens suggested to her classmates after doing the math.

Later in the day, the kids would wrap all the gifts, and school social workers would deliver them to the families, said Lakeview third-grade teacher Karen Hartke.

Hartke said she and fellow third-grade teacher Krista Isaacs came up with the idea to do a service project instead of a class gift exchange this year. They talked to social workers at Lakeview School about getting gifts for families in need. They were able to find two families with children who attend Lakeview, although the families would remain anonymous to the students, Hartke said.

Students were enthusiastic about the service project, Hartke said. The classes each collected shopping money for a couple of weeks.

“We’ve seen everything from just change (they had) at home, to some bringing in 20 dollar bills,” Hartke said. She and Isaacs also chipped in with money they would have spent on gifts for their students. To top things off, Wal-Mart gave them a $100 gift card to add to the shopping budget, Hartke said.

Being set loose in the store to go shopping was fun, the kids said.

“I liked looking at the toys,” said Mitchell Peltier.

But at the same time, the students said they also liked knowing they were doing something good for other people.

“It’s better to give,” said student Grace Rausch.

“You’re making people have a merry, merry Christmas,” said Chloe Louwagie.