In that short time, the student body of 1,400 was able to make Christmas brighter for some 56 local abused or neglected children, spending between $150 and $250 for each child on the gift list.
"We’re really proud of our school for coming through during the holidays," said 17-year-old Jillian Eldridge, one of the organizers of the drive. "That’s what the season is all about — giving."
The gift-wrapped presents, all individually labeled, will be distributed to children served by the Court Appointed Special Advocates program.
The program assists neglected children in the courts system and helps see that they’re placed in stable home environments. Most of the recipients are students at the feeder schools for Flowery Branch High.
"It’s awesome," said Carla Cannon, a CASA volunteer. "They think they’re not getting anything for Christmas, because they’re in foster care, but they’re getting an awesome Christmas."
In previous years, marketing teacher Richard Darracott’s DECA club has led the toy drive, benefitting an average of 30 kids. This year, DECA joined forces with the school’s student council, lining the school hallways with posters and enlisting corporate donations from companies like the Wrigley Co. and Longhorn Steakhouse.
"The way the whole school has gotten involved, I just think it shows the compassion of these teenagers," Cannon said.
Darracott said all the credit goes to the students, including project leaders Eldridge, Kristin Hashem, Marissa Prosser, Alyssa Muler and Teresa Laur.
"The level of effort they put forth is just really remarkable," Darracott said.
"Everyone took it seriously," Muler said.
"It showed a lot of character for our students," Hashem said.
Hall County CASA director Connie Stephens said the students were learning important lessons in the spirit of giving and helping those in need.
"These gifts are very special for these kids, and very appreciated," Stephens said.
Darracott said of the service learning project, "It just helps solve a problem in our society, even if it’s just for one day."