Happy crying and excited chatter echoed through the halls of Chicopee Woods Elementary School on Dec. 19, as Santa stopped by each classroom with a red velvet bag overflowing with toys.
Over the course of four hours, he called off each of the students’ names and hand delivered personalized gifts.
“Once every child had toys, they all opened them at the same time,” Jamie Hitzges, the school’s principal, said. “It was pretty magical. There were kids crying because they said they had never seen Santa before.”
Hitzges said some children had siblings who they wanted to open gifts with, and others preferred to save theirs to open on Christmas.
Every year, Chicopee Woods Elementary looks for new initiatives and ways to care for its students and community.
This year, Hitzges said they wanted to take their giving to the next level by delivering presents to the school’s 715-student population.
“The whole idea of Hall County Schools is ‘The most caring place on Earth,’ and that’s what we try to aspire to each and every day this holiday season,” he said.
Each teacher in Chicopee Woods Elementary figured out what their students wanted for Christmas and put together a master list.
Faculty, staff and community members started gathering donations in October, checking off every child’s wish.
“It started as a dream, but we pulled it off,” Hitzges said.
During the last week of school, the school prepared food boxes filled with a board game and enough food to feed five people for three days.The packages were sent to children and families from the school with the biggest need for food.
On Dec. 20, teachers drove to each of the houses and hand delivered the boxes to families.
At Chicopee Baptist Church on Dec. 20, Chicopee Woods Elementary held a Christmas block party for its third year. All of the school’s families were invited and picked up in buses.
Children were greeted with piles of artificial snow to play on and gooey s'mores to make.
Hitzges said the goal of the block party is to send kids home for the break with joy and prizes.
“I think at the root of it, we want them to know that they’re loved and cared for,” he said. “We see them and everything they bring to the school. In return, we want to provide a little joy for them.”