The Polar Express rolled into the Phoenix Central School District on Friday, bringing with it plenty of Christmas cheer.
Students at Emerson J. Dillon Middle School had the opportunity to shop for family members as they perused a wide selection of gifts that were donated by staff and community members.
The annual event, which began more than a decade ago by the school nurse and school psychologist, has transformed into a gift-giving extravaganza, according to EJD school psychologist Jill Lunn.
“It started out with just a few kids who came down and teachers had brought a few things in for those couple of kids to wrap and take home to give to family members,” Lunn said. “(Since then) they have expanded it and asked for donations from all the staff. Each team nominates children to come down to shop. Every year it gets a little bit bigger and we get more and more and more (donations), which is wonderful.”
Although the donations were a bit scarce at the beginning of December, Lunn said a final push helped send the donations over the top, guaranteeing at least 205 students would be able to bring a gift home for their family members.
“Monday there wasn’t nearly as much stuff, so I sent out an email to staff and said that we have more kids than ever … and they rallied and they brought in so many things,” Lunn said. “We have a lot of community members who donate. What’s incredible too is some of our families who could probably use a little help around the holidays also give.”
For student Love Phillips, Polar Express was a chance to provide a good Christmas for her three brothers and parents.
That feeling of giving, according to Lunn, was what the initiative was all about.
“We wanted to do something a little different and let the kids know what it feels like to be able to give, and very rarely do we get a student who asks for something for themselves,” Lunn said.
While the shopping part was a major part of the event, faculty and community members were also on hand to wrap each gift.
“Certainly we couldn’t do it without the community volunteers, district administrators (and) the teachers that donate. They give up their planning periods and their lunches to help wrap. It’s teamwork. It takes everybody,” Lunn said.