LISLE – For two families with critically ill children, the holidays were made a little brighter this year because of the efforts of the Lisle Junior High School Student Council.
Since the beginning of December, the student council raised more than $5,700 to purchase gifts from the wish lists of two suburban families with three and seven children. On Friday, the student council members delivered the gifts to the families, along with any extra money not used to buy the gifts.
“It just makes me feel really happy that we could come together as a school and put so much money toward the foundation,” said Lisle Junior High School Student Council President and eighth-grader Francesca Wagoner. “And we gave a lot of gifts to the kids and made them feel really happy during Christmas time.”
The student council began raising money in early December for the Adopt-a-Family program through Normal Moments, a nonprofit organization devoted to supporting parents with critically ill children in the home, in the hospital and via web resources so they can spend as much time as possible sharing the most normal moments possible with their children.
Jason Wiertel, LJHS teacher and student council sponsor, said this was the second year the student council helped Normal Moments. He said language arts teacher Natalie Oros, who donates to Normal Moments each year with her family, suggested the student council get involved with the organization.
“We decided to have more of an interactive situation so [the students] could see the impact they were making,” Wiertel said. “Now we finally found something they can see the value in first-hand and you can’t substitute that to give the kids that kind of experience. It’s what teaching is all about, really.”
The student council raised money for the cause through a competition.
Wiertel said students purchased tickets and placed them into cups, each of which represented the 20 teachers who volunteered to participate in the contest. Once the votes were tallied, the top five teachers to receive the most votes would receive a whipped cream pie – or pies – to the face at an assembly held Dec. 18 at the school.
“It went really well,” Wagoner said of the assembly. “After every single pie was thrown there was a roar of shouts and screams and laughing in the crowd.”
LJHS teachers also pitched in for the cause, as Wiertel said. They purchased about $600-$700 worth of gifts for Normal Moments.
The student council also received help from outside of the school. Eighth-grader and student council member Kaela Khan wrote a letter to Lisle-based 123 Exteriors Inc. that explained the cause and asked if the firm would be willing to donate money. Her request was answered with a $1,000 check.
“She was upside down and flipped out excited about it,” said Kerry Khan, administrative accountant with 123 Exteriors. “The owner of the company is a genuinely generous guy and if he sees a worthy cause he doesn’t hesitate [to donate].”
After collecting money, student council members shopped for gifts on the children’s wish lists and then wrapped the gifts in Wiertel’s classroom, which he said “has been like Santa’s workshop the last few days.”
Seven student council members accompanied Wiertel to deliver the presents to the families, including Wagoner. She said the children were very excited to take the presents and put them under their Christmas trees.
“The parents were shocked we brought so many presents and didn’t think there would be that many,” Wagoner said. “One little girl came up to us and said, ‘When Santa comes to our house he’ll see the presents and say there are already presents here and won’t have to give any to us this year!’ That was cute.”
Tricia Fragen, founder of Normal Moments, said with the help of the LJHS student council and individual donors, the organization has been able to provide help to about 200 children in families throughout the greater Chicago region. She said the families in the program face financial hardships since one or more of their children have medical complexities or are critically ill.
From the donation, Fragen said she hopes the LJHS students will gain a broader understanding of what it’s like to give and not just receive during the holidays.
“For those who help with the gift delivery, they get the opportunity to meet children with completely different life experiences from theirs,” Fragen said. “All the families who participate in this program face financial challenges, but almost all have a bounty of spirit and gratitude that I hope the LJHS children get to experience when they meet the families.”
For more information on Normal Moments, visit www.normalmoments.org.