RIPON — It started with a big number, bigger hearts and bare shelves.
On Friday, Ripon Christian Schools students paraded down Maple Street to mark 100 days of school by giving gifts in amounts of 100 for the needy to Ripon Interfaith Ministries.
Every year, first-graders mark 100 days of school as a math exercise, said Ripon Christian Principal Mary Ann Sybesma. This year, she said, we heard that Interfaith needed items, that their shelves were empty. Each grade pitched in to get 100 of something, like shampoo, socks, toothbrushes and boxes of macaroni and cheese.
Fifth-graders walked their caped kindergarten buddies down the block and across the street, helping them hang onto soaps being donated. The capes each sported 100 stickers.
One hundred is a lot from a kindergartners perspective. One hundred is forever, fifth-grade teacher Amy Weststeyn said with a laugh as she walked with the group. But the exercise taught as much about quality as quantity, she said.
Sometimes we focus, especially kids focus, on what we dont have, Weststeyn said. The project got students to reflect on their blessings, she said. I think the kids enjoy giving more than getting.
Giving hundreds of such basic items at first seemed strange, but if you think about it, it makes sense, 10-year-old Mikaela Vander Molen said. I think its a cool idea to give to the needy. They dont have much.
Fifth-graders donated deodorant. Its just something that they need because they dont want to smell bad their whole life, said Joseph De Bruyn, 10. Joseph noted with pride that his family donated six deodorants.
Giving is sort of fun, he said, but this was not like Christmas giving. Your mom, you kind of feel like you have to give something, but those people, they need it, he said.
Classmate Lydia Bakker agreed. I think were really lucky to have things like this and we dont have to ask for them, she said.
That lesson resonated with parents. These are things all these kids are fortunate to have, said Jerry Haugg, noting student Christmas lists usually had Xboxes and PlayStations, not socks and soap. Thats how the schools always been, giving and sharing with the community, he said.
The donations came at a good time, volunteers at the charity said. The holidays are done, said Interfaith Coordinator Geri Hekman, and the next big influx wont be until May. Toiletries every family really needs, but we just dont usually have it, she said.
Thanks for giving. We appreciate it, board member Brechtje Harrewyn called after students as they headed back to the school.