The Gift of Giving: Students Learn to Pay it Forward

Published December 16, 2017 15:36


It may be better to give than receive, but some city students learned on Friday it is best to give and receive.

To prepare for an event called Make Nice Happen, a room in R.B. Russell Vocational School was decorated with Christmas lights and trees. A screen at the front showed a warm fireplace while a Christmas carol played in the background.

The tables were covered with Christmas-themed papers and on them sat brown paper bags with a silver ribbon tying the handles together. Each bag had a small card inscribed with a name. Inside, were delicately wrapped presents.

When the high school students opened the doors to the room, there was a look of confusion on their faces. They had no idea what the presents were for. Smiles spread across their faces when they were told the presents were gifts prepared for their loved ones based on letters they had been assigned to write two weeks ago.

"I’m really happy," Mikayla Malanchuk, 15, said about the gift she had requested for her mother.

"I can’t wait to see her reaction when she opens it," she said excitedly. She is one of the 135 youths who received the gifts on Friday.

The event gives underprivileged youths a chance to give presents to their loved ones. Youths from William Whyte School, R.B. Russell School and the Girls and Boys Club of Winnipeg were given the early Christmas surprise. This is the third year for the event organized by Think Shift, an advertising company.

"Instead of just giving a gift to a kid in need, we are actually teaching them a lesson about paying it forward and how important it is to give a gift," co-organizer Vanessa Mancini said.

The presents were bought with money donated by Winnipeggers. This year, $7,500 was given, exceeding the campaign’s $5,000 goal. Local organizations, including Ikea, True North Sports & Entertainment, Landmark Cinemas, Princess Auto and Ricki’s Clothing donated gifts.

"I felt so excited," said Maria Elena Allen, 18, who got a gift for her mom.

"I’m like, ‘I got my momma something!’ because the last time I got my momma something was when I was 14 and that was a snowglobe," she said with a huge smile on her face.

Principal Jackie Connell said she is grateful for the event because many of her students come from families who live in poverty and who can’t afford gifts.

"The feeling that you get when you do something nice for somebody that you care about is just something I believe everybody deserves," she said.

"It’s part of being human."

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