Sessums Elementary wanted to teach students a valuable lesson this holiday season: selflessness. The school launched three different fundraising drives to help those in need and the response was overwhelming.
“The holidays are about giving, reaching out and helping others. We’re able to give that to those less fortunate,” said Sessums Assistant Principal Laura Edwards.
“Christmas time, you’re supposed to give stuff to others,” said Sebastian, a Sessums fourth-grader.
Recently, when temperatures dropped in December, they realized a need to help people stay warm. The school started a blanket drive and asked teachers to donate.
Sessums’ School Resource Officer, Deputy Clarissa Brady, teamed up with a fellow school resource officer who works at Reddick and Wimauma Elementaries to identify students who could benefit from the heart-warming gesture.
“Deputy Melton’s got a lot of migrant workers at her school, so I reached out to her to see if they might have a need for it. She said absolutely they could use them,” said Brady.
Teachers donated more than 75 blankets that are now in the hands of kids who need them at Reddick, Wimauma and Ruskin Elementaries.
“The kids live in literally shacks. They don’t have heat in the winter, and they don’t have air-conditioning in the summer. To know they’re going to be able to get a good night’s sleep with a warm blanket, it’s good. It’s good for everybody,” said Brady.
Another school fundraising effort is also helping children – a sock drive for patients at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital.
“The sock drive came from other students that had extended hospital stays. The nurses would come in in the mornings with a fresh new pair of socks, and that was the bright spot of the kids’ days. We reached out to St. Joe’s Children’s Hospital, and they told us they needed brand-new socks,” said Edwards.
Fourth-Grade Homeroom Representative, Jenna, knows it’ll help take the kids’ minds off of treatment. “So the kids there don’t think so much about them being sick. We donated all of the socks - like a lot,” said Jenna.
“With our school population of 1,100 students at our school, we brought in over 600 pairs of socks,” said Edwards.
Sessum's final donation to the hospital was 678 pairs of socks. “I’m happy that they’re going to get it and they’re going to be happy with it,” said Jenna.
Sessums also gave a “hand-up” to the homeless this holiday season by collecting canned food and personal hygiene items.
“The Sheriff’s Office will give the homeless people the canned food,” said Ayanna, a Sessums fourth-grader.
“It’s our Homeless Initiative, they have a community center in Carrollwood. The Sheriff’s Office runs it. It is basically a center where people who are homeless can come and get resources,” said Brady.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) said the Homeless Initiative began in 2010. HCSO reports by 2016 the initiative had helped more than 500 homeless people find temporary housing and permanently housed or reunited more than 200 homeless people with family members.
“They have something to eat, because some of them go hungry for a long time,” said Ayanna. “It makes me feel good that we are able to help kids and adults have something to eat.”
Students and staff embraced the spirit of giving and felt they also get a gift in return by knowing that the small gesture has a big impact on those less fortunate in the community.
“I feel most of the kids here at the school are pretty blessed, so for them to be able to see a need and people who aren’t as blessed as they are, it’s good for them to learn that,” said Brady.
“It’s heartwarming that we get to impact our students here at the school. They see us giving, and just generosity and the spirit of kindness,” said Edwards.
“So many people do good things for us that we should be able to give back,” said Ayanna.