Chestnut Hill students deliver gifts to Ocean City peers

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Chestnut Hill students deliver gifts to Ocean City peers  Chestnut Hill students deliver gifts to Ocean City peers

OCEAN CITY — Designed to be an exercise in helping students whose lives had been upended by Hurricane Sandy enjoy a happier holiday, a visit to Ocean City for 22 fourth and fifth grade students from Chestnut Hill, Pa. turned out to be more of a lesson in the joys of giving.

The students, members of the Jenks Arts and Music Choir at the John Story Jenks School, traveled to the Ocean City Intermediate School on Thursday, Dec. 6 to deliver more toys than could fill half of a school bus.

Alice Goldsmith, a computer science teacher at the Jenks School whose father owns a home in Ocean City, said it all began after the hurricane with the thought of helping others in her favorite seashore resort. Once she knew what they needed, she envisioned collecting a modest amount of toys and bringing them down in her car.

Over time, the philanthropic effort grew to the point where it took a school bus and more than two dozen people to pull it off, but she said the outcome was well worth the effort.

“This really hit home with the students,” she said, adding that the massive effort came from their hearts. “They feel really good about helping. We have families at our school that go above and beyond. Once we got started the donations poured in. It was a real community effort.”

Goldsmith said some of the students in the kindergarten through eighth grade district face their own challenges, but every student understood the challenges that students in Ocean City face.

“We talked about the fact that some of the students lost their homes, all of their belongings,” she said. “They were very motivated to do all they could to raise funds. It’s been wonderful to see how excited they have been about helping others.”

Students, each wearing red and white Santa hats, hopped off the front of the bus and immediately began unloading the toys in assembly line fashion. About a half dozen OCIS Student Council officers were on hand to greet the visiting students, assist in the assembly line and show them around the school.

The visitors were all smiles as they carried the gifts into the school, where they will be stored until school officials can appropriately match each of the toys with a student who can best use it. Andrew Leland, a music teacher and choir director at the Jenks School, said his students lost count of how many toys they brought.

“It was very, very generous of them to do this,” said 13-year-old Madison Kitchen, OCIS Student Council vice president.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” said 12-year-old Cassidy Diamond of Ocean City. “We weren’t expecting even half of what they brought. It’s amazing.”

Caroline Pizzano, a 14-year-old eighth grader from Ocean City, said her job was to take pictures and properly record the event. She said she, too, was “amazed” at the effort the visitors made.

Once the gifts were brought in, the visitors went to the school’s multi-purpose room where Ocean City fourth and fifth graders joined them.

The visiting choir members sang three songs, “Merry, Merry, Joy, Joy,” “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” and “Let There be Peace on Earth.”

After the assembly, student council officers and Ocean City officials joined the visitors for a pizza party, courtesy of Manco and Manco.

Goldsmith said the effort became a schoolwide project for the more than 500 students at the Jenks School, their families and the school’s staff.

“I wanted to help, and I didn’t want to just give to the Red Cross. I wanted to do something to help people directly,” she said. “I love Ocean City. This is where I spend my summer, so that’s how it got started.

“The whole school took the project on, each teacher did some of their own projects to raise money,” she said.

Goldsmith said the school participates in fundraising for March of Dimes and autism and breast cancer awareness events, but had never taken on a project of this magnitude. Gwynedd Estates, a retirement home in Ambler, Pa. donated $1,200.

The staff at the Jenks School sent a big basket full of goodies for the OCIS staff, “From our staff to yours.”

According to OCIS Principal Geoff Haines, more than 60 of his students, or about 15 percent of the student body, are still displaced and in need of many things. With Christmas fast approaching, he said toys are at the top of the list for the children.

“Someone from the Jenks School called right after the storm and asked what they could do. At that point we were getting a lot of help locally, but I said to them that in about six weeks we could probably use some toys for the students,” he said. “The goal for them became to deliver as many toys as possible.”

“We’re going to make wish lists,” Haines said, adding that school counselors and social workers would assist in the effort.

The toys will then be distributed to the students.

“I just think it’s phenomenal that they decided to help our families, and it’s neat that they are so excited to do so,” Haines said. “I have three kids and I know how excited that they get. I love this time of the year, the kids, both at home and at school, get so excited.”

Despite the holiday excitement, it’s been a rough time for the school family.  

“We have staff members who were displaced, too. We don’t hear so much about them,” he said. “We lucked out that the storm wasn’t worse. The water came up to the front door, but it didn’t come in. If the storm hit a little bit south of us this building might not be here.”

Haines complimented the student council officers who assisted with the project.

“They are great leaders. They have great ideas,” he said, adding that the group did a wonderful job of greeting the visitors and making them feel welcome.

“To have someone from Philadelphia come down here, for a whole day … talk about the spirit of the holidays,” Haines said. “What they have done is going to make a lot of kids very happy.”

Chestnut Hill students deliver gifts to Ocean City peers  Chestnut Hill students deliver gifts to Ocean City peers

Chestnut Hill students deliver gifts to Ocean City peers  Chestnut Hill students deliver gifts to Ocean City peers

Chestnut Hill students deliver gifts to Ocean City peers  Chestnut Hill students deliver gifts to Ocean City peers

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