BELLINGHAM - When she was in third grade, Shira Joy remembers a room full of presents at her school.
There were dolls, toys, food and things for her family, as well as presents for other students at the school, and they came from strangers. She was living with her grandparents at the time, and the gifts she got that day meant a lot.
"I guess that's why it stuck in my memory so much because I didn't get to be with my family as much, but I knew someone was thinking of me," she said.
Those gifts came from Sehome High School's Bring Joy to a Child program, now in its 25th year at the school. As part of the program, every class at the school raises money and donations to support children in need at elementary schools in the Bellingham School District.
Joy is now a senior at Sehome, and she loves being involved with the program that brought her so much happiness.
"It's really cool to be able to do it for someone else and see all the effort and passion that goes into it," Joy said. "I do remember how good it felt to know someone was thinking about me, especially during the holidays. It feels good to know I can make someone else feel that way, too."
This year, the school brought in about $14,000 in donations for 117 kids and families, said Kevin Johnson, a Sehome teacher and one of the program's coordinators. The week before Thanksgiving, students took two trips to the Lakeway Fred Meyer - half of the students going on each trip - to spend the money on items such as coats, warm clothes, bedding and toys for the children they're sponsoring.
"We have to pull teeth to get kids to a basketball game, but we don't even have to ask about Bring Joy to a Child," said Johnson, who had a student in one of his classes save up her allowance for a month to donate.
The school had its Bring Joy to a Child assembly Tuesday, Nov. 20, after which volunteers delivered the donations to schools throughout the district. Students and their families get together to receive the donations after school.
Senior Arie Knops said he loves seeing all the donations lined up at the back of the auditorium during the assembly and seeing the impact the school has when everyone works together to help people who are going through a hard time.
"I think it's important to give students perspective on what's important during the holiday season and teach them about giving rather than receiving," he said. "It just makes you feel good helping out."
Reach ZOE FRALEY at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 756-2803.