Students learn the joy of giving

Two classes of third- and fourth-grade students at Kaiser Elementary lined up next to a Costa Mesa fire truck on campus Friday morning to donate holiday gifts to children in need.

The 58 elementary students, some donning Santa hats and holiday sweaters, turned over dolls, toy cars, board games, balls, stuffed animals and more to the Costa Mesa Fire Department's annual Spark Of Love Toy Drive.

Spark of Love collects new, unwrapped toys, books and sports equipment in conjunction with other charities annually for Orange County children, said fire engineer Steve Savage.

"We're trying to bring a piece of Christmas to everyone," he said.

As a reward for the donations, the Fire Department gave a tour of the fire truck, letting students inside to look at the equipment.

This is a new event at Kaiser. Third-grade teacher Patti Clark introduced the tradition, having seen it in action during her time at Harbor View Elementary in Newport Beach.

"Instead of doing holiday parties at school, the kids donate to a charity," she said. "We make it into a learning experience for them instead of just giving them a bunch of stuff they'll already be getting at home anyway."

A letter went home to parents several weeks ago asking them to pay their children to do tasks around the house to earn money for the gifts they plan to donate.

"It's great for them to learn how to make their own money and use it to help someone in need," Clark said. "The parents loved it."

Naomi Chankoumi, 9, smiled as she handed a grocery bag containing dolls, stuffed animals and a book to one of the firefighters.

The fourth-grader had been upset when she learned of the $10 limit on the toy drive. "I wanted to buy more toys than that for kids," she said.

Naomi decided to remedy the problem by purchasing toys from the dollar store so she could buy more than one.

Principal Deborah Granger plans to encourage students at Kaiser to participate in the toy drive every year.

"I love the opportunity for our young students to understand that the holidays are about giving and not just about what they are receiving," she said. "It's going to teach them to be great humanitarians."

Fourth-grader Reese Rasmussen, 8, was bubbling with goodwill, excited to be donating a doll to the charity.

"It's nice to help people that don't have as many nice things as we do," she said.

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