Lots of grumbling about teachers these days, but if we set aside the political agenda, we can look at some pretty fabulous occurrences... and they're all starting in the classroom!

Sandi and John Porter coordinate teachers and schools' giving for Christmas Cheer. They work thoroughly and pleasantly, ensuring the fabulous Sinton's Bus Line and First Student have great drivers on hand to pick up the tremendous quantity of food and toys to be delivered to the Christmas Cheer warehouse.

Behind this behemoth job, there are delightful stories, little notes of thoughts that turned into deeds and deeds that blended into avalanches of goodness.

As we head into the final week of preparations for the Christmas care of over 5,200 people, I thought you might enjoy a few of these stories, coming from the classroom, and from teachers who chose to keep their kids and Christmas Cheer kids in their sightlines.

Caileigh McNeill is a grade 12 student at St Peter's High School. She wanted her final high school year to count for something. She wanted to make her 'mark.' She saved $300 to do her first sky dive jump. Turns out on the day she was to jump, snow was falling hard and fast; the Sky Dive company said she could be first on the list for the spring. Caileigh decided to make her 'mark' in a different way and she donated the entire $300 to Christmas Cheer. She didn't go and buy electronic gizmos (my word), or clothes or music downloads... she gave it all to Christmas Cheer.

Megan McColm is the teacher contact for Forest Hill School in Midhurst. She challenges every school in Simcoe County to dig in and make a charitable difference in their community. And the difference made by Forest Hill fills an entire bus, a full sized school bus, jammed with food and toys, delivered to Christmas Cheer.

Codrington Public School has a big rivalry with Forest Hill and organizing teacher at Codrington, Michelle Eisses, has a team of elves who begin their creative planning in September. Michelle has so many students wanting to join the elves team that she has a lineupof elves-in-waiting. Such is the enthusiasm at Codrington.

Christine Verbrugge is the coordinator for Saint Gabriel Catholic School and she gives the reason for the incredibly generous output by St Gabriel students. It's a 25 year, quarter-century story. Christine grew up in Sudbury and her dad began a food drive there 25 years ago. He expanded it to the schools and called it the Kids Helping Kids Christmas Food Drive. He spent time talking to kids about foodbanks and money and how they can help.

Through grants and corporate financial help, Christine's dad makes sure every kid in 30 Sudbury schools gets a bag that says Kids Helping Kids. They bring the bag home, talk to their parents about filling it with food.

Christine brought 800 bags from her dad's campaign, handed them to her students and talked to them during announcements about kids helping kids. After Christine's dad passed away, the Sudbury food drive became the Edgar Burton Christmas Food Drive.  Great legacy and Christine's passing it on.

Saint Gabriel's grade one students also held an art show where parents could 'buy' their child's art with all the money coming to Christmas Cheer.

Lisa Kenny, a teacher at Oakley Park Public School told the story of her grade 5 class who wrote a song for the Ten Days of Giving, performed it at assembly, and as a class they planned, collected, packed and counted 865 items and over $110 in Canadian Tire money.

The event was run by the students who were determined to do more for others. And after doing all this, Lisa said thanks to Sandi and John for letting Oakley Park be part of this amazing program.

Maureen Teffer at Mapleview Heights was pretty excited. Despite her school losing 180 students this year, they held competitions between divisions and they met their goal of 3000 items, earning the whole school an extra recess. Two grade 8 classes has such a fierce competition that the two classes ended up with only 29 items difference... a total of 4,159 items for the school.

Shanty Bay School has 188 students who brought in 1,260 items.

Mike Wilson, new vice principal at Minesing Central School, is very excited about Christmas Cheer. Minesing did the Twelve Days of Christmas this year, each day focussed on a different item. First Day for fuzzy mittens; Second Day of Christmas for slurpy soup... you get the idea!

Diane Gayner is the applications coordinator for Christmas Cheer and she reports walking the hallways at Holly Meadows School. The grade one children, helped by older students in the school, had all written about their reasons for helping Christmas Cheer. The younger kids pinned their articles up on the walls... one teacher in the school, with others taking on other projects.

This is repeated across our city in 51 schools. Hundreds of stories of kids with generous spirits, looking outside of themselves.

And none of it would happen without the committed coordination of retired teachers who know how to reach out to their own community.

Thanks, Sandi.  Thanks, John.  Thanks, Caileigh.  And on and on and on...

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