TAMPA — Sure, there are plenty of Scrooges out there who think that November is too early to start thinking about the holidays.
But you won’t find them at Deer Park Elementary, which started preparing for the holidays long before Thanksgiving rolled around. The kids have been writing letters to the Make-a-Wish Foundation, preparing a Christmas tree with angel cards, and collecting bags of clothing.
The Make-a-Wish project has a special place in their hearts, for while fourth-grade teacher Maria Linden supervises the program, the kids are the ones that make it happen.
“Make-a-Wish is important because those kids aren’t as lucky as we are,” fourth-grader Sadie Lingo said. “There are kids with cancer and it is not curable. We just want their dreams to come true because that’s what the holidays are all about.”
As for the kids themselves, Make-a-Wish has allowed them to reflect on a grim reality many hope they’ll never have to face.
“The kids really know that they might die, so we want them to be as happy as they can while they have a chance.” Said fourth-grader Grace Hammond. “I feel happy to see them happy. It’s sad, but if there’s anything we can do to make their life special, we want to do it.”
Fourth-grader Natalia Febre is also into the spirit of the project.
“It feels good and makes you think of how special the holidays are,” she said. “Some kids can’t even sit through a whole day of school and we take it for granted, We can’t do everything but we can try to make people happy.”
The angel tree, which is being set up just before Thanksgiving, will have cards with items such as toys, food, and clothing. All the kids or parents have to do is claim a card and donate whatever is on the card. The gifts go to the local Salvation Army, which finds a home for them.
Deer Park is also contributing in other ways. The school is involved in Metropolitan Ministries, has started a jacket drive, and also works with the Girl Scouts.
To contribute to the Deer Park Elementary holiday efforts, contact the school at (813)854-6031.