CHICAGO (CBS) — Students at Richard J. Daley Elementary Academy, in the Back of the Yards neighborhood on the South Side, will get an early Christmas present from Santa on Thursday.
This Santa’s workshop is not at the North Pole, but at northwest suburban Cary-Grove High School. Each of Daley Academy’s 750 students — from pre-kindergarteners through the 8th grade — will receive a present, in a drive overseen for much of the fall by Cary-Grove’s Interact community service club.
Its president is Patrick Kelly, who said he fully realizes that for many of Daley Academy’s impoverished families, this may be the only gift they get this holiday season.
“This might be the only thing they get through this Christmastime,” he said. “Being able to give them that one thing (and) put a smile on their faces is like my philosophy, which is to be able to make a difference.”
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Interact has undertaken similar drives in years past, but never before has the amount spent topped $20,000. Students and faculty each picked a letter; most asked for items ranging from soccer balls and ear buds to clothing and “Angry Birds” games. The Cary-Grove student council took the last 100 letters, and paid for those gifts from council funds.
The Cary-Grove students have tried to play Santa’s elves in years past, but their class schedule prevents them from doing so this year.
Kelly, who has made such trips in the past, said the students have been “out of their minds excited” when getting, for the most part, exactly what they sought.
Interact picks a different school each year. School officials estimate that over the past four years, Cary-Grove students and staff have donated more than 2,500 presents valued at approximately $60,000 to Chicago public schoolchildren.
Kelly sait it is times such as this that make him realize how special Cary-Grove High School is.
“Cary-Grove is a place where people hold the door open for you and say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,'” he said. “This is a building filled with a lot of great people.”
No doubt, the Daley students will soon agree.