Eighth-grader Meghan Doane shopped this Christmas season with her mother for two girls, ages 9 and 11, that they don’t know. The younger girl needed clothes. That’s what they got her.
Meghan and about 30 other students at the shopped, bought or wrapped gifts this holiday season for students in the five elementary schools that feed into the Kennedy Middle School who might otherwise not get gifts for Christmas.
This year, they bought and wrapped presents for 140 students.
As part of the program, Kennedy seventh and eighth graders in need receive gift cards with a value of $20 to Target. Proceeds from a fall school dance fund the gift cards, according to Kennedy Guidance Counselor Rita Robertson.
Robertson planted the idea of the school “Giving Tree” four years ago, Robertson told Woburn Patch last week. Before she moved to the Kennedy School as a guidance counselor, Robertson worked in an elementary school.
“I always saw a need,” she said.
“I also feel strongly,” Robertson said, “that our students need to know that our larger community has needs and we can help [fill them.] Students say, ‘I just didn’t know,’” about other students’ unmet needs and wishes. Yet one of those students “might be sitting right next to them.”
Some students shop themselves for their wish-giver, according to Robertson. Some use their own money.
One student used his own money to buy presents for someone—at the same time, Robertson said, his own wish list was on the tree.
Principals in five elementary schools—the , and —submit lists of students and what they need or want to Robertson. Those lists, numbered to protect students’ privacy, are hung on a tree in the school. Kennedy School students can earn service hours for fulfilling other students’ Christmas wishes.
A lot of principals ask for clothes for students, Robertson said. They give her sizes. “We try to do a toy, too,” she said, plus a hat and gloves.
The first year, the Kennedy “Giving Tree” filled 87 elementary school students’ Christmas wishes, Robertson said.
Over the program’s four years, including this year, Robertson said the program will have filled the wishes of 800 students, including some Kennedy students and Kennedy school students and adult volunteers will have wrapped about 1,000 “Giving Tree” gifts.
Robertson said she tells shoppers that most people spend between $20 to $25 on gifts. But “People are generous,” she said.
Kennedy seventh grader Jayna Wallus helped wrap Giving Tree gifts after school. She also wraps gifts at home, she said, for her family. A member of the school’s leadership team, she said: “You help people who need help. I feel really good that I could help someone else’s holidays be better.”
Eighth grader Meghan Doane had mixed feelings after participating in the project. She was “a little sad that a girl needed clothes” at Christmas. She also feels “happy,” she said, knowing that the students she shopped for “will have something to open” at Christmas.