Ecker Hill students find Christmas spirit |

Ecker Hill students find Christmas spirit

For many, it was the first time in their lives they wondered what it would be like if their families didn’t have enough. What if there wasn’t the money to stuff Christmas stockings full of trinkets and load presents under the tree?

This holiday season, Ecker Hill Middle School students had to consider that reality. Then, they made sure that won’t be the situation for 40 local children when they wake up on Christmas morning. The students recently raised $2,075 to buy gifts for Operation Hope, a Christian Center of Park City initiative that helps provide gifts to children whose families can’t afford them.

"A lot of these students have no idea what it means to actually be on a budget or to be on a restricted list or to not be able to afford something," said Jennifer Hales, a teacher involved in the school’s participation in Operation Hope. "So I think it really hits at their hearts when they’re shopping for a child and they know that may be the only gift that child receives for Christmas. It’s just a really important lesson."

Earlier this month, the students had a "coin war" competition to raise the money. Each class had a water jug into which any student in the school could contribute. Pennies and dollars counted as positive points, while nickels, dimes and quarters were negative. The winning classes earned breakfast, while the whole school will get a special dance for beating the goal of $2,000.

"There was a lot of sabotaging, a lot of hiding," Hales said. "It was a lot of fun."

After the school raised the money, the student council class went on a shopping trip to buy gifts. Each student was tasked with buying presents for two children: One older than 8 and one younger.

Charlie Retzer said shopping for children his age who would otherwise go without Christmas gifts was eye-opening.

"It was a really cool way we got to raise the money," he said. "It was also really cool to go buy the presents for the kids. You get to know some kids aren’t necessarily as spoiled as you. You’re helping them out and that’s a good thing to do."

Navie Aleksa has a friend whose family will be helped by Operation Hope. She said that personal connection made buying the gifts a special experience.

"It means a lot," she said. "Christmas is the biggest thing that really gets kids excited. If kids didn’t get Christmas, it’s like their childhood is over, I guess. Christmas is really special for a kid."