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For the 17th year, Oak Lawn Community High School hosted Operation Santa at the school, 9400 Southwest Hwy. in Oak Lawn, where families Christmas wish lists were adopted by students and staff members. A gift-wrapping party was held at the school on December 20. (Supplied photos)

For the 17th year, Oak Lawn Community High School hosted Operation Santa at the school, 9400 Southwest Hwy. in Oak Lawn, where families Christmas wish lists were adopted by students and staff members. A gift-wrapping party was held at the school on December 20. (Supplied photos)

OLCHS students celebrate season with Operation Santa

By Kelly White

Oak Lawn Community High School students are sharing the spirit of Christmas with those in need this holiday season.

For the 17th year, students from all grade levels participated in Operation Santa Claus this December where families Christmas wish lists were adopted by students and staff members. The wish lists derived from families from the Oak Lawn High School community who demonstrate a need for assistance, as determined by the counselors and social workers.

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Ella Hennessy, 16, of Oak Lawn, picks a name off a Christmas tree displayed inside of Oak Lawn Community High School for the school’s Operation Santa event.

“It is overwhelming to see the generosity of our staff and students who give anonymously to help those less fortunate,” Jeana Lietz, Principal at Oak Lawn Community High School, said. “I know that we have outstanding students who demonstrate Spartan pride, and this is one way that we can show the larger OLCHS community how great they truly are. And our staff members who run the program dedicate their own time and money to make sure that families can have a better holiday. It is one of my favorite community outreach events that our school organizes.”

In order to become a part of the project’s wish list, every family participating had to have at least one or more student attending OLCHS, with ages ranging anywhere from freshmen to seniors.

Candy canes hung on Christmas trees located in the student and staff cafeterias at the school, 9400 Southwest Hwy. in Oak Lawn, for one week in early December, each containing a gift tag identifying a person, their age, and desired wish/need.

Since all 13 families have at least one student attending OLCHS, it gave them a chance to have an impact on their local community, specifically their peers. A total of 31 student/siblings have been referred to the program and were interested in participating in the project.

Many staff members and groups throughout the school community have generously offered to adopt an individual and purchase all their gifts. The remaining individuals’ wishes were on the gift tags on the holiday trees in the student cafeteria.

Wishes included anything ranging from clothing, gas/grocery gift cards, and toys in addition to a few specific requests. In order to participate in the program, students and staff chose a candy cane at random, purchased the gift(s) with their own money, and returned it to the school unwrapped.

“Students have a lot to give, they just need an outlet to do so,” Kruger said. “All individual and family names are kept confidential but it’s nice for the students to have the opportunity to help someone who could be sitting next to them in class.”

The project originally sparked at the high school after Kruger participated in a similar project through the University Recreation Center at James Madison University. She then carried on the tradition at OLCHS.

Once all the gifts were collected at the school, they were then wrapped during a wrapping party, hosted by Kruger, and the 20 students on the Operation Santa Claus school committee on Monday. From there, the gifts are taken on a school’s Spartan minibus and hand-delivered to the families in need by staff and students.

“I love the opportunity to help others who are struggling,” Kruger said. “Many people struggle at some point throughout their lives and I aim to connect those who currently have with those currently in need. It’s important to give to others however you can, whether it is donating time, resources, money, or physical items/gifts, everyone can play a role in improving their community.”

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