ELKHART — A local family can expect to have a merrier Christmas this year, thanks to a group of students at Elkhart Central High School.

The students raised $1,227 and purchased Christmas gifts for a local family in need through the Salvation Army’s Adopt-A-Family program.

The program gives donors the opportunity to provide a family’s Christmas dinner, gifts for parents and children, and other items that a family may need.

The fundraiser was organized by the school’s student-led CHAMPs Club – an acronym for Central High Activities for Motivated People.

According to Missie Dickerson, sponsor for Central’s CHAMPs Club, the group spent a week collecting money from students during their lunch periods and at the school’s student center.

“Our goal was to raise $600, and we doubled that,” she said, noting that the highest student donor gave $150 and requested to remain anonymous.

In addition, the group also put together three gift baskets for other families in need.

The students of CHAMPs Club were busy wrapping the gifts at the student center this week creating a Santa’s-workshop type of atmosphere.

Kathy Reyes, a senior, participated in the program for her third year and said she enjoys it more each year.

“Getting money for the Adopt-A-Family is very important for me because I wouldn’t like it if I were in that situation and didn’t receive anything for Christmas,” she said.

Reyes said she was impressed by how many students pitched in donations.

“We had many who put in money every day,” she said. “This helped us pass our goal and get the children presents that they wished for, which is really cool.”

Participating for their first year were students Karina Gonzolez and Eivette Martinez who both said they’ve experienced how tough times can be during the holidays inspiring them help change the situation for others.

“I like helping people and I know this family is going to love what we did for them and it was very important,” said Gonzolez, a freshman.

“It’s just a great feeling to be able to help,” said Martinez, a senior, adding she wishes she participated prior years.

Another student, Kadlyn Hanes, a senior, said she believes this year was the most the group raised in the four years that she’s participated.

“We all just worked really hard and had the same goal and fortunately had a better outcome,” she said.

This is Central’s 10th year participating in Adopt-a-Family, said Dickerson, crediting its success to the students’ hard work and dedication.

“All I do is facilitate; they do all the work,” she said of the students.

Dickerson said she believes the program teaches the students the importance of altruism and philanthropy.

“They learn that it’s important to give back to the community and helps them see that there are people in need and that every penny and every little gesture helps,” she said.

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