Grade 7 student Denise Estacio is excited for the chance to give back to the Christmas Cheer Board, because she knows how much the Cheer Board has given to her and her family.
Twelve-year-old Denise, of Cecil Rhodes School, and her classmates spent an afternoon this week packing hampers at the Cheer Board warehouse at 90 Sutherland Ave.
Hundreds of schoolkids are being bused to the warehouse to help pack hampers during November and December. All of the Cheer Board's hampers are being packed by students this year.
Denise said she has personal reasons why helping out at the Cheer Board is so important to her.
"My family has been struggling," she said, showing her emotions. "I'm excited to help the Christmas Cheer Board because of what they have done for my family. I'm happy and sad to be here, because it is sad that some families don't have food at Christmas."
Her classmate, Icah Navidad, has also had family members who have received help from the Cheer Board and said that is why she understands it is important to help.
"It is really fun giving back to society." said Navidad. "Volunteering at Christmas for me is more important than getting stuff for Christmas."
Denise and Icah's teacher, Jaymi Witzke, believes the chance for kids to help out at the Cheer Board has far more value for the kids than just a day away from the classroom.
"Some of them have been very honest about the fact that they have received hampers and they have a real understanding of how much it is appreciated," said Witzke.
"We do a discussion about it before we come here and you could hear a pin drop in the room. They were really thinking about it and talking about it, and that is when students started sharing that they had actually received hampers."
Witzke said she thinks the chance to help at the Cheer Board will convince some of her students to continue volunteering.
"Based on how our conversations went, a lot of the kids were asking how they could get in touch with the Christmas Cheer Board and how they can do it on their own and get their families involved. It's that pay-it-forward idea where they get others involved," Witzke said.
The Christmas Cheer Board is in its 12th year of having schoolkids pack hampers, and those kids have become an essential part of the operation.
"We couldn't do it without the kids," said Kai Madsen, the Cheer Board's executive director. "Kids are here every day of the week. We make sure everything is organized before they get here and once they start, those kids can motor."
Along with the chance to help, Madsen said going to the Cheer Board is an eye-opener for kids, no matter their own financial background.
"It's not enough for kids to just see good things. Kids have to tune in to some of the harder things that are going on in the world," he said.
Any school interested in having students help pack hampers can call the Cheer Board at 204-989-5696.
The number of applications for Christmas Cheer Board hampers as of 3:30 p.m. Thursday.
The number of applications for hampers at this time in 2011.