Students rise above politics, spread Christmas cheer
GENEROUS GIFTS. Students at Bracebridge Public School got to pick out some early holiday gifts donated by students at St. Dominic Catholic Secondary School. (Photo by Louis Tam)
December 19, 2012
BRACEBRIDGE - Santa’s helpers at St. Dominic Catholic Secondary School rose above politics last week to deliver an inspirational gesture of holiday generosity.
Under the direction of teacher Marty Scarlett, students at the school had been working extra hours to finish 1,600 wooden toys for children in Muskoka as part of their Santa’s Workshop event on Thursday, Dec. 13. While hundreds of children from the community arrived throughout the day to pick out toys, many elementary school students that were slated to come with their classes were unable to do so because of a one-day strike at public schools.
Scarlett and the students, however, were determined to make sure those children didn’t get left out. The following day after the workshop, they packed up the remaining unchosen toys and personally hand-delivered them to area elementary schools.
“Even though the strike is on, we’re bringing 400 toys to each of the Trillium schools,” said Scarlett. “We’re trying to teach the kids to be bipartisan.”
The deliveries took place throughout Muskoka to areas as far as Watt Public School in Muskoka Lakes township. Scarlett said the students had been cutting into their lunch breaks, and working both before and after school over the past four weeks to finish the 1,600 toys, which range from puzzles and toy cars to wooden sleds and miniature fishing rods.
After all was said and done, remaining toys were donated to the Bracebridge Salvation Army.
Coinciding with a school Christmas concert, Grade 8 information night and a craft show, the workshop brought youngsters face-to-face with Santa Claus, who most recently appeared at Barrie’s Georgian Mall. Inspired by news of the event three years ago, he agreed to waive his sitting fee to appear at the school event.
“He’s doing this gratis, no money,” said Scarlett.
One of the helpers at the workshop was Grade 10 student Allen Manary, who has been facing his own share of problems at home. With his father injured on the job recently, he said his family has had to turn to the food bank for assistance. His holiday spirit, however, hasn’t dimmed.
“I’ve had a lot of trouble over the past couple of years, but I just want to give back,” he said.
Student Timothy Knight, who handcrafted wooden toolboxes, said he was especially touched to see first-hand the joy he brought to the children.
“When they picked out the ones I made, it was really heartwarming,” he said.
Though she wasn’t expecting the rush of students, classmate Maddie Lyndon said the 1,600-toy stockpile meant there was plenty of generosity to spare.
“We’ve been giving some extras to people too,” she said.
The students were initially devastated when they learned the one-day strike would impact their event, but Scarlett said the hand-delivery idea was an excellent example of how the kids learned to adapt on the fly.
“We’re just looking at it as an opportunity for great problem-solving from the kids,” he said.
For admission to Santa’s Workshop, visitors were asked to make a donation to the Manna Food Bank. Over 400 pounds of food was collected from the community, exceeding Scarlett’s original goal of 300 pounds.
The workshop itself is run in three-year intervals at the school, and celebrated its third anniversary this year.
Scarlett and his students are also no strangers to community outreach, having counted 85 community projects completed to date. Past projects include building and donating a kayak for Variety Village in Toronto, and building furniture for residents at the Pines Long Term Care Home.
Students at the school are also working to create a large, 24-by-36-foot greenhouse at the Pines that will allow seniors and students to plant, grow and harvest crops to benefit both the home and area food banks.
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