TOUCHED BY LITTLE ANGELS: Mesa students give to needy

Kindergarten students in Robyn Ericson’s class raised $75.31 for two angels. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

Evidence of a committed 6-year-old: Grace Teter researched the prices of a dozen or so toys on the Internet and recorded her findings on a sheet of paper, her handwriting like most in kindergarten — sprawling, uneven, and shaky.

The effort was not for herself, but for two 6-year-olds she doesn’t know.

Teter and the rest of her Mesa Elementary School kindergarten class spent three weeks raising money for the Salvation Army Angel Tree fund. Their efforts yielded $75.31. So instead of plucking one angel from the Salvation Army Christmas tree — where dozens of underprivileged families hang their Christmas wishes — the children plucked two.

They raised the funds by doing extra chores around the house, and added to the pot by donating monetary gifts from parents, grandparents, and friends.

“I helped my mom load the dishwasher,” a proud Cole Schaap said, the colorful gifts his class bought for the children laid out near him on the carpeted floor.

Class members also forfeited dimes, nickels, and quarters they usually reserve for weekly trips to the Mesa Mall, where they can purchase candy and other treats.

This is the third year Mesa kindergarten teacher Robyn Ericson has used the Angel Tree to introduce her students to the gift of giving. But never, she said, has a class responded as generously as this year’s.

“This class reached out more. They truly understand the meaning of caring and giving. Those are big concepts for a 5-year-old,” Ericson said.

Ericson’s 23 kindergartners also learned a little about democracy. They voted on what to buy their peers. They decided on new outfits for the Angel Tree children, along with a Barbie doll and a toy truck, among other items.

“It was nice to see them all come together as one group,” said Mesa Elementary Educational Aide Miranda Bonney.

“They had no hesitation,” she said, “in giving.”