Numerous Christmas trees could be found in the Patriot Elementary hallways, the school community nestling into the Christmas spirit.
The event served as the kickoff for an annual holiday program hosted by the school since its opening.
Families who attended the Nov. 19 event selected paper ornaments from their trees, each tree designated for specific grade levels. The ornaments each featured specific wish list items from families being adopted by Patriot this holiday season. Items are then collected at the school, where the Parent Teaching Organization and Pride Council will then sort and wrap the gifts.
“The kids really enjoy this,” said Peggy White, a teacher at Patriot. “They’re excited to deliver the gifts every morning and watch the stack grow bigger and bigger.”
The event originated with more of a military focus as a way for students to give back to the military at a time when many more troops were deployed overseas. Now, with fewer troops deployed, Patriot chooses a military family along with other families to sponsor.
The school has adopted a few families in need from throughout the Papillion La Vista Community Schools district, as well as a family from Offutt and others from local retirement community, Monarch Villa.
“We do the military because Patriot has such a strong tie to the military,” said Becky Medeck of the Parent Teaching Organization. “A lot of our families are military families.”
Patriot also offers the families it adopts a holiday meal, provided through PTO funds or gift cards collected as part of the fundraiser.
Aside from the trees, families could enjoy cookies and hot cocoa, donated to the school by Hy-Vee, at the event, and school band director Brandy Hall and her quartet provided music to get the school community in the winter spirit.
“We really do it not only to give back to the community, but to teach kids to give back to the less fortunate, especially at a time of year when we’re so focused on creating our own wish lists,” said Medeck.
Medeck said most of Patriot’s 572 students bring their families to participate.
“Patriot has a very family-oriented, generous community,” Medeck said. “We’ve had a great turnout every year.”
Patriot families can see the difference they make, as the school community often receives notes from the families they’ve adopted filled with thanks and gratitude.
“We’ve had people comment a lot that it was just way more than they expected,” Medeck said.