By Sue Botos
Thanks to the creativity and caring of students at Rocky River Middle and High schools, as well as others throughout the country, Sandy Hook Elementary School children returned to class last week in their new school building with a blizzard of warm wishes.
As one of several holiday season acts of kindness, the Rocky River students joined forces with students throughout the country and answered a request from the National PTA for homemade snowflakes. The paper creations, each one unique, represent the individual wishes of thousands of children and their families. RRMS students, dressed in green and white in honor of the school, also sent along class photos with an “RRMS supports Newtown” banner.
In addition, according to middle school Principal Megan Rose, the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders reached out to neighbors who needed a hand.
Although Rocky River is often thought of as a wealthy area, Rose stated that the school projects “allowed our students to see that there are people in need right in our own community.” During the holiday season, the student council collected and wrapped 31 coats for children and teens in the Rocky River Assistance Program. The group also hosted a “hat day,” where teachers collected warm head gear from their homerooms, and a dance, from which all proceeds were used to buy coats for local families.
But the good will was not just limited to the students. “The staff also became involved, and several staff members purchased coats for the drive,” Rose noted.
The middle school Builders Club, advised by Terri McNeely, traveled to the St. Patrick hunger center to help feed the poor, an activity they try to do every month.
Club members also made blankets for children who had to spend the holidays in the hospital. Teacher Brian Chulik, who often visits hospitals with his “Superheroes for Kids” group, delivered the blankets. In addition, the middle schoolers wrote letters and brought in items for service members’ holiday care packages.
School musical groups also spread holiday cheer throughout the area. The middle school chamber choir, led by Director Mary Fancher, visited Lakewood Hospital on Dec. 10 to entertain personnel and patients. The group’s singing also made the time go faster for children, pets and parents as they waited in line to have their pictures taken with Santa at Goldwood Primary School on Dec. 6.
The student-run Middle River Band also played for the Old River Holiday Walk on Dec. 1.
Sixth-graders were encouraged to think about how they could “create a chain of kindness” after reading the classic “A Christmas Carol” in their language arts classes and attending the production at the Cleveland Play House. The students then took part in a “Pay It Forward” project during which they were asked to complete several acts of kindness, journal their feelings, then write the name of an act on a piece of paper, which was added to the chain.
Members of the high school Key Club got into the act by assisting the Student Library Advisory Council in collecting books for Fairview Hospital’s children’s floor. The group also made luminary bags for the Rocky River Beautification Committee’s Light Up River event on Dec. 23, and volunteered at the All Aglow event at the senior center following the community holiday tree lighting. The River’s Edge Show Choir also performed at the event.
The Key Club will keep the holiday spirit going for elderly residents with the window-cling snowmen they made. According to group advisor Andrea Reynolds, the decorations will be delivered with Meals On Wheels to recipients shortly after the holidays.
The district’s younger students did their part to spread holiday cheer. Members of Kensington Intermediate School’s K-Club collected and sorted food for the Rocky River Assistance Program in November, then helped in raising funds for the annual Hoops for Hunger campaign. According to advisor Nancy Bondy, the group will keep up the good work in February, with the kickoff of their “Pennies for Patients” campaign, during which students donate spare change for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Even the K-2 students at Goldwood pitched in by donating food to area shelters and food banks, plus holding the annual “Winter Warmies” clothing drive. The children also made thank-you cards for their bus drivers and city workers in appreciation for their service during Hurricane Sandy.
Second-graders presented holiday songs to residents and staff at the Welsh Home and Normandy Manor.
Goldwood Principal Carol Rosiak noted, “Providing service opportunities for young children is a critical step in fostering a sense of charity. It provides children with a sense of joy and pride when they know they are helping others.”