Kids helping kids
Children’s voices echoed off the walls of the multipurpose room at Williston Elementary on Friday, Dec. 21 as the students took turns at different stations crafting ornaments, dancing to top ‘40s music, indulging in hot chocolate and cookies and weaving their way through the bounce house that doubled as an obstacle course. But a large red stocking weighed down with baby bottles, pacifiers and diapers at the front of the room revealed that these children weren’t just there for the holidays; they were also doing their part to give back. Each year the elementary school picks a different cause to support over the holidays, and this year it chose the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Shands Hospital for Children at the University of Florida.
The event was a reward for the school’s positive behavior system. Students earn what they call “Wildcat Cash” for demonstrating the characteristics of the PAWS program – positive attitude, always respectful, willing to learn and showing responsibility. Students who earned 20 dollars in Wildcat Cash could buy a ticket to the event. The service project for Shands NICU unit was an opportunity for students to put into practice what they learn through the positive behavior system. Their focus for November was charity. In December it was kindness.
“We feel it’s important for our students to give back and to do so for a cause that they can relate to,” said Celeste Greenlee, a school counselor at Williston Elementary. “Many of our students have been treated at Shands, so it was a perfect fit.”
Madison Ervin, age 9, was one of many students eager to fill the stocking with their donations. She knows firsthand the importance of giving back. Her brother is a cancer survivor who has been treated at Shands over the past year, and she is also a regular donor to the Locks of Love program.
“My brother was here [at Shands Hospital for Children] a lot, and we learn about giving back in school,” said Madison. “I really like helping babies.”
Thanks to the children and families at Williston Elementary, the babies and their families in Shands NICU were given an extraordinary amount of love and attention this year.
“I was so impressed with our students and their families’ generosity. Levy County is a less affluent county, so for these families to give back is truly admirable. They really went the extra mile,” Greenlee said.