Freedom Angel Tree nets gifts for 100 needy kids
By Kyle LoJacono
Five excited teenagers gaze into a room loaded with presents.
Wearing grins from ear to ear, the five poke through the piles of gifts and find items ranging from clothes to toys to new bicycles.
It’s not a scene from Christmas morning. It’s at Freedom High and the five students are examining the donations the Patriots gave to the Salvation Army for 100 needy kids in the Tampa Bay Area.
The five include Amy Chang, Leah Thomas, Michael Simon, Cris Zayas and Christina Wise. They are members of Freedom’s Less Than One club, which raises money throughout the year to sponsor underprivileged kids in countries like Ethiopia or China. But during the last two holiday seasons the group has organized an Angel Tree program through the Salvation Army, which provides needy children’s wish lists for Christmas presents.
The 100 wishes were put on paper angels and hung on a Christmas tree in Freedom’s main office. Students and faculty answered the call of all the children and provided the gifts.
“It’s really good knowing that kids will get a new bike for Christmas when they can’t afford it,” said Chang, who participated in the Angel Tree project last year. “Happiness is going to them during the holidays and you know you’re helping with that. It’s just really special to know they’ll have a great Christmas.”
Chang, a senior, was part of Freedom’s first Angel Tree program last year, which netted 75 presents for needy children.
“Angel Tree is so big and it really helps the Tampa Bay area,” Chang said. “There are a lot of people who aren’t as privileged and it’s good to help them whenever we can.”
Gifts included smaller items like clothes and coloring books to more elaborate presents like 12 bikes and a Nintendo DS game system. Club supervisor Laura Babbitt said it was a thrill to see the pouring in of gifts from students.
“Of the gifts that were donated, at least half were given by students, not the adults,” said Babbitt, an ESE specialist at Freedom. “So many students used their own money and stepped up to get an angel off the tree to get them something special for Christmas. That’s what has been amazing to me that we have so many teenagers who care so much.
“The thought that they put into the gifts shows,” Babbitt continued. “You can tell the gifts that came from students and which came from adults because of the thought that went into it. There was a girl who gave a bike, but also got a lock for it and other things to go along with it. So she was thinking of everything she would want with a new bike and added to it.”
Chang said the Angel Tree idea started with a now graduated student named Amy Kim.
“She really wanted to give gifts to kids whose parents couldn’t afford them for the holidays,” Chang said. “She wanted to find ways to help the community out and she loves kids. I thought it was a great idea and wanted to be involved in it.”
Chang said it was really special participating in the Angel Tree project the last two years. She added the underclassmen in the club are planning to continue it each year.
“Hopefully it will just keep growing and growing,” Chang said. “That way more kids can have presents on Christmas.”
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