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By Laura Drinan
Hometown Weekly Reporter
Many of the students at Old Post Road Elementary School (OPR) knew exactly how many presents were under their trees at home and carefully kept count of how many gifts were for them. Although the holiday season is a happy and exciting time for OPR students, the school’s third, fourth, and fifth graders were reminded that not all children are as fortunate.
To help spread joy and love this holiday season, OPR students and their families seized the opportunity to collect gifts for the Snowman Project to benefit the Department of Children and Families (DCF).
Thirteen years ago, fourth grade teacher Brian Larkin introduced OPR to the Snowman Project and asked for volunteers to bring in gifts for children in need. Awareness and enthusiasm surrounding the project has only increased, with students from grades three through five contributing gifts to over 165 children.
“It’s a great way for families to get together over the holiday season and spend some time talking about what it means to be giving back to people who may not be getting a lot this season,” said Larkin. “There’s going to be a lot of kids who are a little bit happier because of this in the next few weeks.”
Just like the real Santa needs a trustworthy elf assistant, Larkin, who has been nicknamed OPR’s “head Santa,” needed a “head elf” to help with such a massive project. That elf is OPR’s METCO liaison, Noreen Ennis.
Ennis connects with the DCF each year to get a list of names for the Snowman Project and gather information on what types of gifts the children need and would like to receive. She provides the parents and students who choose to “adopt” the child with the information, and keeps track of the gifts to ensure that each child in need will have a present to open.
“It’s just a great thing, kid-to-kid,” said Ennis. “And the families here at OPR are so generous and so willing to help. We did all of this in about two weeks.”
When staff and volunteers from the DCF arrived, the students enthusiastically helped carry bags and boxes to the seven cars that would act as Santa’s sleigh for the Snowman Project recipients, feeling proud of their good deeds and excited for the girls or boys who would receive their gifts.
While it certainly takes a lot of effort to coordinate and produce such a whopping amount of gifts, Larkin, Ennis, and the students and families involved agreed that it has been extremely worthwhile to help a child in need - especially during the holiday season.