HAYDEN — For being so little, Northwest Expedition Academy’s kindergartners have big hearts.
“Instead of having a Valentine’s party, I want to be nice,” Sawyer Cash said Thursday.
These future leaders will not be exchanging valentines today. Rather than indulge in candy and cards, they decided to hold a toy drive for Children's Village and North Idaho CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) so the kiddos those local nonprofits care for have something to snuggle and play with when they're away from home. Many times, children in crisis leave quickly without a favorite toy or teddy bear to comfort them when they need it most.
“It’s not fair if they don’t get toys and other people do,” Sawyer said sincerely, his hands in his pockets.
"We’re giving the children toys because if they have no toys, they’ll be bored, and when they’re bored they just stay on the couch,” said classmate Wesley Cheathem.
Kindergartner Olive Buttice said it makes her happy to help other kids.
“They don’t have any toys and they lost them so we’re giving them toys,” she said.
Karissa Wise and Mikaela Martinez's students collected more than 100 toys in the past month, parting with new and gently used items from their own closet.
“We have some students who have benefited from CASA and Children’s Village, and so they decided to do a toy drive and bring in toys from their houses to support them," Martinez said.
One student called it being "shareful."
"It’s the best way to teach them at a young age the importance of helping out others and their peers that might need some help," said Carol Brennan, advocate supervisor at CASA. "It just opens up conversation about how everybody’s different and some people have a lot and some people don’t. It’s important to take care of each other."
“I love that the teachers coordinated it with learning the word 'generosity,'" she said.
"And ‘shareful,’” Brennan added, smiling. "That’s my new favorite word."
Representatives from CASA and Children's Village visited NExA to collect the toys and chat with the kindergartners, who were seated in neat rows in Wise's classroom. Children's Village CEO Mark Wilson got down on their level to ask them what this project was all about.
“We wanted to do a toy drive so kids can have toys," one girl said. "If they don’t have toys we can give our toys to them."
"We’re giving them toys because they don’t have money to buy them,” another student answered.
"To be kind,” another student sweetly said.
The toy drive was the kindergartners' contribution to the schoolwide Day of Giving event to correspond with Valentine's Day. All of NExA's students did something to give back: first- and fourth-graders delivered valentines to residents of assisted living facilities, fifth-graders made kindness clothespins and pencils to give away, second-graders held a bake sale to benefit Kootenai Humane Society and third-graders crafted cards for veterans.
"Our community has hosted us and taught us and donated to us, so we thought today would be a great chance to give back to them instead of having a day about ourselves," Martinez said.
Both teachers expressed how pleased they have been with the generosity — and the "sharefulness" — of their students.
"Just watching them be able to understand that it’s not always just about them, they can be generous and be kind and be giving as a 5- and 6-year-old, and that they do have something to contribute to our community," Martinez said.