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By Stephen Press
Hometown Weekly Staff
There are certain ubiquitous rules that one expects to be followed in an elementary school.
Keep your hands and feet to yourself.
Raise your hand before talking.
Hats off inside of the building.
Which, of course, makes it all the more shocking when one walks into the Ralph Wheelock School cafeteria and notices a plethora of headwear - some of it rather eccentric, at that - sticking out among the crowd of dining second and third graders.
This wasn’t the kiddie version of civil disobedience or rebellion, though. Quite the contrary - it was good citizenship in action.
As part of the Wheelock School’s “Give a Hat, Wear a Hat” day, children were invited to donate winter hats on Friday, January 20. In exchange for their donations to Cradles to Crayons, the kids were allowed to wear their own hats for the day. Medfield’s creative young students were quick to take advantage of the opportunity.
“It’s pretty fun to bring in hats,” calmly understated a smiling Henry, who sported an impressive rainbow-colored squid on his head. He motioned to his molluskan crown: “I got it at Medfield Day. I wear it at some birthday parties and stuff.”
Each hat, aside from being visually unique, also seemed to come with its own story.
“When I was in, I think, kindergarten, my best friends were doing a 3v3 soccer game,” said Wyatt, who wore a cap emblazoned with the face of a sock monkey. “At the end, he gave this to all of his good friends.”
“I think it was one of my birthdays, and I chose this as a birthday headband,” chimed Ellie, referring to her own whimsical, multi-colored headwear, which featured two miniature daisies on the band itself.
Meanwhile, Sophie got in two hats for the price of one: her chapeau of choice was in the shape of a reindeer who himself was wearing a Santa-Claus-style stocking cap. “This is one of my favorite hats,” she meekly intoned.
For their part, Principal Donna Olson and her secretary, Luanne Monahan, couldn’t keep the smiles off of their faces.
Monahan, who conceived of the idea for “Give a Hat, Wear a Hat” three years ago, was already reflecting on how far the day had come in such a short time. “First year we did this,” she said, “we didn’t have Cradles to Crayons … Cradles to Crayons now has a pod on our property. The code to get in is 1984, so anyone that has any children’s items of any kind and wants to donate them, they can come here, unlock the thing, go inside the pod, and deposit it where it goes.”
“A couple of years ago,” added Olson as she looked out over the cafeteria, “my secretary had suggested this activity. It’s just been wonderful, just to encourage the children in the spirit of donating - it really warms your heart.”
“At this time of year when there are people who have such significant needs during the winter months, it’s our pleasure to help.”
This year’s fundraiser brought in almost 200 hats for Cradles to Crayons - a fact that wasn’t lost on the kids themselves.
“I feel happy for the people that get the hats,” said Henry, still wearing his rainbow squid.
“I like to know that people are going to be really warm this winter, since it is pretty cold,” said Owen. “Everyone will be happy in the snow.”
Hats off to them.