Andrew is one of the more than 280 students who participated in the event in place of holding Valentine’s Day parties. The in-school project is a joint effort of the school and its PTA to enable students to help others within the community.
DeMasi Elementary School PTA President Nicole Lumley said the idea for the event came when teachers mentioned older students in the school – fourth- and fifth-graders – felt too old for Valentine’s parties. “We thought it would be a great way to provide a ‘teachable moment’ for the students. It gives them an opportunity to help someone else and play a larger role in their community,” explained Lumley, who added that everyone is hoping it becomes a “DeMasi tradition.”
Working with teachers and the PTA, the fifth-grade students selected 10 organizations that would benefit from the event: Joseph’s House, Cathedral Kitchen, Recovery Chair, Evesham Fire and Police, Animal Welfare Association, Camden County Pop-up Library, Operation Yellow Ribbon, Wiley House and DeMasi Elementary School teachers and staff, who received “thank you” cards from the students. The fifth-grade students conducted research on each organization to understand its mission and how it operated. They then shared that information with the other classes in the school. Ava, one of the fifth-grade students, explained the students had put their research on posters they used to share the information.
For the event, the PTA set up stations around the gymnasium where students could assemble the items. Each station included one of the posters made by the students. The fifth-grade students worked at each station, assisting younger students. Participating by grade level, students rotated through each of the stations, where they made toiletry kits, dessert bags, placemats, snack bags, Thank You and Valentine’s Day cards, bookmarks and sandwiches.
Noah, one of the fifth-grade students helping make bookmarks, said it was “a fun thing to do and important to help the charities.”
Materials for the activities were donated by DeMasi Elementary School families, including peanut butter, jelly, bread, books, granola bars, pocket-sized tissue packs, peanut butter and cheese cracker packs, water and socks. “We could not do this without our parents’ support,” explained Lumley, “The more donations we receive, the more love the students spread.”
Some of the results of the students’ efforts included, according to Lumley, 330 toiletry kits and 350 “care” socks for Joseph House, 200 snack bags for Recover Chair, 130 “thank you” bags for Evesham Fire and Police, and 350 dessert bags and 300 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for Cathedral Kitchen.
In addition to the “DeMasi Spreads Love” event, students participated in Pajama Day on February 12, where they donated at least a $1 to wear pajamas to school with the proceeds going to Rett Syndrome Research Trust in honor of “Believe in Brynn,” an organization that supports a resident of the Marlton community with Rett Syndrome. Students raised $576 for the organization.