A holiday giving event started as a labor of love by myself and my wife, Sherrie, was recently recognized by the Hillsborough County School District and the SERVE Volunteers in Education organization.
“Wildcat Wonderland”, a holiday shopping spree for the most needy students of Belle Witter Elementary in Tampa, was selected among thirty-eight service projects as a Partner in Education Award winner for 2014. We developed the idea for the as a way to give back to the community, and plan to make this an annual event. Sherrie was once a teacher at Witter, and recalls very clearly the critical needs of a large portion of the student population at this school. We wanted to do something to help the students and their families.
Through the assistance of Witter Elementary social worker Erin Saunders and guidance counselor Patricia Guglielmi, we organized a holiday shopping trip to the local Target department store for 80 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Students were guided through the store by school staff and event volunteers, who helped them to select their own Christmas toys and clothing. Through this event, these children got to experience the spirit of the holiday season that they may not have otherwise had the opportunity to take part in.
It’s a great honor to be recognized by the school district for our efforts, but the real joy came that day in seeing the smiles on the students’ faces as they picked out their own toys and clothing—that was the true reward. I hope that our efforts encourage more businesses to get involved with their local schools and give of themselves, as it’s really appreciated by the schools and the teachers working with this student population.