Elk Mountain spreads Christmas cheer

Nathan Steele

“It was a ball. They just ate it up,” said administrator Shaun Pitts about Elk Mountain students Josh Bradeen, Charles Hardestey, Owen Arp and Andrew Bradeen, who brought gifts and good fun to families in the Elk Mountain and Limestone areas of the county over the course of a few days in December.
The students had the idea to dress up as favorite Christmas characters like Santa, the Grinch, one of Santa’s elves and even Ripp for a school Christmas party on the last day of school before the break. When December’s winter storm rolled through the area, the costumes, which were still in the mail, were delayed enough they did not arrive during the break. So, out of kindness, the students took a few days out of their break to dress up anyway to bring gifts and hot cocoa to area families even with the snow and frigid below-zero temperatures.
A short skit was also performed by the students to accompany the arrival of the gifts in which the Grinch  (played by Charles Hardestey) would attempt to steal the gifts before being chased off by Santa, Ripp and Santa’s elf.
Pitts said that they were sure to get to all of the homes of the kids from the school who would be home over the break, but also to the homes of school board members or others in the community  who had heard of the project. Altogether they went to 15 different locations, including the home of one student who was sick with tonsilitis and received gifts rather than hot cocoa.
Pitts said that a lot of families ended up playing along with the students, particularly Gabby Hardestey, who had prepared her own surprise for the Grinch. When the gifts arrived, Hardestey was ready to lend a hand to Santa and his helpers to chase the Grinch off by donning her own T-rex costume, which took the kids by surprise said Pitts. In fact, one student was knocked off his feet (all in good fun).
Participation in the project wasn’t just limited to the students, however. The school encouraged people in the community to participate by sending out pictures from the project to the people they visited and challenged them to post the pictures online along with Dr. Seuss-style narratives of what had happened when Santa and the Grinch came to visit.
“For me, the greatest part was that everybody gave up a day of their break to do this for the community. I thought that was absolutely heart-warming,” said Lisa Richardson, an administrator for the district.
“It’s amazing how fast the word got out,” said Pitts.
Folks from the community were eager to participate after hearing about the project. Pitts expressed interest in continuing the event into future years, although, the students who spearheaded the operation are set to graduate, so the middle school students would have to pick it up.

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