Southwest Virginia Enterprise, Dec. 24, 1996


Giving with heartfelt love for others is the true spirit of Christmas. This valuable lesson was experienced last week by the seventh-graders at Scott Memorial Elementary School.

Through the "Our Christmas Wish for You" project, the students touched the lives of 55 people this holiday season. The young people solicited money to buy gifts for some special individuals and made personalized cards for them.

Selected by the students to receive presents were a Scott Memorial teacher who is being treated for cancer, a local pre-school teacher who is also a cancer patient; a baby boy with birth defects who remains on a respirator in a Roanoke hospital; a little girl in Blacksburg who has leukemia; 11-year-old Jason Rooker, a patient in a Charlottesville rehabilitation facility; and the 50 residents of Asbuy Center at Birdmont.

The project came about after the students in Carolyn Hylemon's language arts classes read O. Henry's classic "Gift of the Magi."

"We talked about what it means to give from the heart and about giving without expecting anything in return. We decided to see how generous people would be to donate to our project, especially without them receiving anything in return. I gave them directions and let them execute the project to the best of their ability," stated Hylemon, who noted the students were not required to participate.

Soon "Hylemon's Holiday Helpers" were seeking donations from family, friends and area businesses. Their efforts raised a sizable amount of money.

"Nobody was ugly about helping. I think everyone the students asked made a donation," she added.

After compiling a list of worthy recipients, the students decided on appropriate gifts. They bought a poinsettia for the teacher with cancer and gave her a monetary gift for dinner.

The pre-school teacher - who taught many of these students - also received a poinsettia. Because of her concern for her own children's Christmas, she was given money to buy gifts for them.

"Caleb's First Christmas Tree" was prepared by the students for the hospitalized infant. A small tree was decorated with baby-related items from pacifiers to toys. It was topped with a plaid teddy bear hand-made by a student and her mother. The baby's parents received a gift of money from the students.

Each of the 50 seventh graders wrote a friendly letter as a card with an enclosed photo for the Blacksburg girl. They also sent her money to buy a favorite compact disc.

For Jason Rooker, the classes created a large Christmas card tree. They cut a tree shape from poster board and filled it with individually designed cards featuring original artwork and verses. The students also gave Jason's dad money to buy Jason a special gift from them.

"The children saw the articles about Jason in the paper and wanted to do something for him," Hylemon stated.

Each of the Birdmont residents was presented with a box of candy, another small gift and a handmade card from the seventh-graders.

"I think the students have learned that people do care about others even in a time when it's fairly trying for all," Hylemon remarked.

Her class members agree.

"It makes me feel good inside to help others. Christmas is about giving," a student said.

Another added, "Helping somebody makes you feel good."

"We got back smiles from people," commented a student.


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