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Fox Chapel students discover it's better to give than receive

| Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013, 9:32 p.m.
The Herald
Avery Grahm puts gifts under the tree at the Country Day School. Jan Pakler | The Herald
The Herald
Claudia DeMartino and Callie Davis lay on top of a pile of donated hats, scarves and mittens. Submitted
The Herald
Claudia DeMartino and Callie Davis with bags of soccer balls under the Giving Tree. Submitted

All it took was a scrap of hope to create an avalanche of giving.

Claudia DeMartino, a student at Fox Chapel Country Day School, scooped up a pile of fabric scraps and began stringing them together with wire to fashion one-of-a-kind holiday ornaments.

“My mom and I did something similar last year where we made them into wreaths so I got the idea from that,” said Claudia, a fifth-grader.

“I thought we could sell them and raise money for children who don't have much at Christmas.”

With help from classmate Callie Davis and other students at school, the simple idea brought in nearly $800 and helped purchase sacks full of soccer balls, pop-up nets and cones to donate to children at the Bradley Center, a home and school for mentally challenged children.

They also wanted to provide some warmth to needy children in the area and decided to buy hats, mittens and gloves for the Pittsburgh Homeless Children's Education Foundation.

“During the holidays, we really like helping so other kids can have a nice Christmas and get some stuff that we already have,” Claudia said. “Some of those kids at the Bradley Center can't even spend the day with their families so we want to give them this stuff.”

Claudia recruited friends from Country Day's third, fourth and fifth-grade classes to kick the project into high gear. The school sponsored a recycled sweater drive in November and student volunteers met after school once a week to assemble the fabric ornaments.

“Everyone was helping each other,” Callie said. “One time, we made 50 in one day!”

In all, students made 300 ornaments to sell at the school's annual holiday fundraiser, “Jingle, Mingle and Shop.”

“The children have been so excited and really got in the spirit of giving this season,” said Sharon Smith, head of the school.

In addition to the ornament-making fundraiser, students have donated generously to the school's Giving Tree, Smith said.

“We have been so thrilled with the response this year,” she said. “The tree is absolutely filled with gifts.”

Callie said the idea of helping children in need filled her with holiday spirit.

“It felt good,” she said. “It's nice because we feel like we're helping a lot of kids that maybe wouldn't get a lot of stuff.”

And it was infectious.

When Claudia and Callie visited a store in The Waterworks nearby to buy the hats, gloves and mittens, the manager gave them an extra discount so they could get more bang for their buck.

“The hats we got were so colorful,” Callie said. “They're fun. Some are shaped like giraffes and cats, with ears. Some are sparkly.

“We had bags full of them and the receipt was taller than us!”

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at tpanizzi@tribweb.com.

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