A group of 30 Brownstown Central Middle School students recently scurried around Walmart in Seymour.

Curious as to why the children weren’t in school, one woman asked a couple of the girls what they were doing.

They told her they were shopping for toys, clothes, health and beauty products and other items for less-fortunate kids as part of the Christmas Cheer project. The woman smiled and told them that was a great thing to do.

Christmas Cheer has been a community event in Brownstown for many years, and the schools got involved around the early 1990s. It started as a food drive for the elementary and middle schools, but at one point, the middle school switched to a toy drive.

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‘Makes me feel really good’

This was the third-straight year for eighth-grade Tribal Council members Payton Farmer and Andrew Striegel to participate.

“It makes you realize more that some people aren’t as lucky as others, and it makes me feel really good to come here and help out,” Farmer said. “It makes you feel really good that you accomplished something big and that you’re not only (missing a day) of school, you’re also getting to help people, which is really awesome.”

Striegel said it’s good to see the school help out a worthy cause.

“Everybody comes together to help out the community and give stuff to people who don’t have it,” he said.

Record a

mount to spend

Tribal Council advisers Alicia McCrary and Lee Ann Silence recently joined the students on the shopping trip. The nearly $5,300 they had to spend on 70 kids ages 17 and younger was a record.

Going out in pairs, the students had a note card with the number of kids they were shopping for, their ages and amount to spend.

“We thought back on what we would have liked or if we have friends or nieces and nephews that are about the same age, what they would like,” Farmer said. “Some kids aren’t as fortunate as us to have heavy coats and stuff, and in the winter when it’s really cold, it’s one of your needs that you have to have.”

At the end, everyone gathered at the front checkouts with their carts full of merchandise.

Switching it up

Striegel liked seeing everyone buy a variety of things.

“It would just kind of get old having the same exact thing, just like toy after toy. (Kids) would kind of like to have a coat or something sometimes,” he said.

Farmer said shopping was the

fun part.

“It’s really cool that they let us do it on our own,” she said. “They have enough confidence in us, and we get to work as a team. It’s really team-oriented.”

McCrary liked watching the kids shop.

“It’s really rewarding to see the kids put so much thought into it because they are being so generous,” she said. “It’s kind of funny to watch them because they are like, ‘No, we can’t buy that because we’re on a budget,’ so I’m sure it’s a great life lesson also about budgeting and how to spend their money. I just like seeing how involved the kids get into it and how much they really do care for other people.”

Silence said it’s a humbling experience for the kids.

“They look at that and think this is one child’s Christmas,” she said. “I think they put a lot of thought into it because they want to put the best effort into making whoever this is have the best Christmas that they can have.”

The money came from a variety of sources. McCrary said the Tribal Council’s dance in October was the kickoff, with proceeds benefiting the project.

Throughout the school year, they sold bottled water and candy during the school day, operated concession stands at athletic events and sponsored hat days to raise money. There also was an Orange Leaf fundraiser that netted $300, and students brought in donations from their families.

The school’s faculty contributed to the project, too.

“It can be disruptive during the school day where the kids are going in and out of class buying water and candy,” McCrary said. “The teachers donate candy to sell, so it just shows that our staff is very generous, and they tolerate the disruption from class because they know that it goes to a good cause.”

Silence said each of the three grades at school set a goal of money they wanted to raise.

“We’ve never made it a competition between the grades because we want the kids to feel like they are giving from the heart and not giving to be at a competitive nature,” she said. “But yet, it’s fun for those kids to kind of fight against each other.”

Setting a record this year was nice, McCrary said.

“The eighth-graders that are on Tribal Council, they have done it for several years, so they are excited about it, and they may get everybody else involved,” she said. “The whole student body participates every year, so it’s always fun. Each year, they want to do something again to try to beat the year before.”

After the shopping was done, the students were rewarded with a trip to Pizza Palace in Seymour. They then headed back to the school for a group picture with all of the purchases. Those pictures will be sent to major donors as a thank-you, Silence said.

The gifts then were passed on to the Christmas Cheer committee to deliver.

Now that the project is completed, McCrary and Silence both said they hope the Tribal Council members are more appreciative for what they have.

“I just hope that they feel the need to give to people that are less fortunate than they are,” Silence said. “And the fact that there’s just a time in society where other people need to stand up and help others.”

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.