For several years the Oak Valley Care Center has been the recipient of Christmas gifts from students in Tara Vandermark’s class at Fair Oaks Elementary School. The sixth graders have conducted an annual candy cane “candy gram” fundraiser to earn money to fill wants and needs at the care center.
Vandermark’s class sold candy canes with short notes attached to students and staff at Fair Oaks who paid a dollar for each candy gram they wanted delivered to other students in class.
The money collected from the candy grams buys items on a wish list that Vandermark obtains from OVCC. Her students also make original holiday cards and deliver all the gift items in person, visiting with residents at the care center.
Typically the gifts are delivered prior to the students going on winter break, but this year a little round of the flu prevented the students from visiting the care center before the holidays. They’re ready to go, however, as soon as school is back in session in early January to deliver the gifts and cards.
“I do it so that the students know how fortunate they are and so that they understand the true meaning of the holidays, which is to give rather than receive,” Vandermark said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for the kids to give back to the community.”
This year, her class raised more than $350, which will be used to purchase a DVD player, some CD walkmans, headphones, and DVD movies to update the library of old VHS tapes.
“They have a sense of pride,” Vandermark said of her students’ response to the project. “They think it’s great that they’re able to give back. They always want to know how much they raised and what they’ll be giving.”
She added that her students really begin to understand their impact and realize how fortunate they are once they get to the care center and visit with the residents. She has previously stated that the students get outside their own “bubble” and are humbled by the experience.
OVCC activities director Patti Taylor noted that the residents are appreciative of the students’ gifts and cards.
“The residents really enjoy seeing the young people and sharing their Christmas,” Taylor said. “… It’s nice to see an inter-generational time where the kids can come and meet the elders.”
She added that the care center is home for many of the residents and the goal is to make it as home-like as possible. What better way, she said, to make it like home than to have children around.
Some of the past gifts from Vandermark’s students have included a television set when the care center’s main television in the dining room just stopped working, a Japanese maple tree, TV dinner trays, Wii accessories, games, batteries, movies, and more.
“With the TV… they were able to provide us with something where we didn’t have to go out and spend a bunch of money… Even the little stuff, like batteries, helps,” Taylor said.
The candy gram idea started when Vandermark worked at another school where students held similar fundraisers. She brought the idea with her when she came to Oakdale.