Tigers’ joy of giving will make Christmas brighter for children in need.

December 9, 2022

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Tigers’ joy of giving will make Christmas brighter for children in need.

Tiger Pride is a presentation of Shelby Public Schools in partnership with Oceana County Press

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor

SHELBY — Students and staff at Shelby Public Schools experienced true joy during this year’s Toys for Tots campaign while exceeding their donation goals.

Over $4,000 in toys were donated to less fortunate children in the community thanks to the Tigers’ generosity.

“This was our best year collecting coins as a building,” said Thomas Read Elementary School teacher and student council advisor Beth Gowell. “Our goal was to collect $1,000, and we collected $1,010.”

The idea of a building coin drive for Toys for Tots started with Karen Fraass with the help of Oceana County Toys for Tots Coordinator Jim Carlson, explained Gowell and fellow educator Nadene Thurow. Sadly, Fraass died recently. 

“We lost Karen Fraass on Sunday,” said Gowell. “She would be so proud of the students’ efforts in continuing what she started.”

Due to her illness, Fraass was not able to spearhead the project this year as she did in previous years.  

“We decided to team up with the high school student council, and then the project just kept growing,” said Gowell. “Before we knew it, it had become a district project including all grade levels. Collectively, we collected over $4,000.”

Shelby High School donated 203 toys through donations and coin drive funds — far exceeding the goal of 150 toys, said Shelby High School teacher Melissa Baker who co-advises student council with Chandler Monton. 

“NHS started last year with the coin drive and raised $1,700.” Last year’s money was used for this year’s campaign. Funds from the previous year are used in order to get the toy shopping done in a timely manner.

The Shelby High School Student Council and the National Honor Society, along with Thomas Read Student Council, traveled to Walmart in Whitehall to shop for toys and gifts. “They teamed up as ‘bigs’ and ‘littles’ to shop for Toys for Tots. Collectively, purchasing 323 toys — so many toys were collected that Mr. Carlson had to bring his trailer to haul them all.”

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“We went shopping with Jim, and he matched some of the dollars with his donations and collections,” said Baker. 

High school teacher Joe Bainbridge, who co-advises NHS with Kolleen Lenon, said teaming up the elementary and high school students for toy shopping created a unique experience. “Those kids look up to them,” said Bainbridge. “Our excitement was seeing those kids interact with them.”

“Each toy you put in the cart, you’re thinking about which kid might be getting that,” said SHS student and NHS President Emma Soelberg. “The whole time I was thinking this is going to make their Christmas that much better.” 

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Emma’s shopping partner was her brother and fellow NHS member Tanner, making the experience even more special. “He was very excited the whole time.

“Our little partner was Izzy (third grader Isabel Paine). At first, she was kind of nervous being around the older kids. As we kept going, she kept getting more and more excited.” Emma said her little partner’s input on toy selections was extremely helpful. 

This year, was the first time that the two age groups partnered, and the district plans to continue this special partnership in the future. “Hopefully, this builds into an annual tradition,” said Bainbridge. “It was an all-hands-on-deck effort.” 

Plans are to pair up the high school students with the elementary students for a Secret Santa gift program. “We’re hoping to do more throughout the school year where we’re pairing our leaders up from the high school with the elementary,” said Baker.

The Tiger Toys for Tots team visited the WZZM TV13 studio in Grand Rapids Friday, Dec. 9, during the Toys for Tots School Challenge, representing the Shelby school and community. “We’re taking a bus of 60 students, and we get to be on the news,” said Baker prior to the trip.

“We are super proud of our Little Tigers and their families for supporting others in need,” said Thurow. “One third grade student council member said, ‘This was the best day ever.’”

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