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Dayton Children Surprised with Christmas Gifts at School

The spirit of giving during the Christmas season is alice in Dayton.

Gina Byrd, a lifelong resident of Dayton, and the Family Resource Center Director for Lincoln Elementary in the city's schools, had an idea that every kid in the school, from preschool through sixth grade, should have an unexpected surprise this Christmas.

The idea grew from GE, in Hebron, which had sponsored a class each year, deciding that this year would be its last doing so. While Byrd was out of town for fall break, she put out an idea to family and friends.

She was overwhelmed with the response.   

"People I never met volunteered," Byrd said. "Some people volunteered to take whole classes. Others could sponsor one child, and some could do three children. But that didn't matter. I had so many helpers! I knew the idea would work."

Being a person who lives by spread sheets, Byrd coordinated the efforts of her willing volunteers by distributing the lists for each child, lists which described wishes for what the child wanted, what the child needed, the sizes for clothes, and desires for reading material.

Byrd said some people followed the lists religiously, and others interpreted the desires more loosely

As long as each child would receive something they wanted, something they needed, something to wear, and something to read, she appreciated the variances in each volunteer's choices.

In a gigantic wave of coordinated effort of shopping, wrapping and delivering presents to Byrd's office, the entire project came together, although Byrd had trouble entering her office.

And then there were the curious children.

"They knew something was up," Byrd said.  "We had asked them what they wanted for Christmas, and then there were tons of presents here. They would ask me, when do we get the presents? They have been so excited." 

During the final week of classes before winter break, each class was scheduled to be featured for the project.

Byrd reserved the library, and turned out all the lights when the children filed in and sat down, excitedly whispering to each other, anticipating a surprise,. 

The lights came on, illuminating the Christmas trees and the decorations. 

Each child received gifts, carefully selected by an army of volunteers who wanted to go above and beyond and do something nice for someone else. One boy received a teddy bear, which he had wanted, and he would not put it down, giving it lots of hugs. 

Another child wanted a slime kit, and when he found out the slime would glow in the dark, he jumped up and down in happiness.

At the end of the week, 584 children had experienced the Christmas spirit of giving. 

Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor

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