CHAMPAIGN - Stratton Elementary School first-grader Darryl Bernard has a new book, thanks to two new friends, Mike Krisman and Matt Pritchard, both seniors from St. Joseph.
?It's fun,? Darryl said Friday at a gifts presentation.
St. Joseph and north Champaign are only about 15 miles apart, but it's a learning experience for both Cindy Marrs' first-graders and the juniors and seniors from St. Joseph-Ogden.
Senior Tracy Rew said her school's Helping Hands project raised $1,500 for the Stratton first-graders, and was a learning experience as well.
?I learned not to be so materialistic,? she said.
The students are in Marshall Schacht's sociology class. In other years, they've garnered donations for The Salvation Army and Swann Special Care Center.
The connection to Stratton is that Marrs had three of her own children in Schacht's classes.
?It was an idea our teacher had given us, and we really, really liked the idea of helping little kids,? Rew said. ?We had a lot of support from our school and two churches.?
The Ridge Farm Friends and St. Joseph United Methodist Church contributed money, as well as C.E. Office Services of Ogden.
?We raised most of the money by asking people at school. We asked for spare change with a bucket at lunch and in study hall classes,? Rew said. ?People put in a lot of money.?
Rew said she enjoyed meeting first-grader Ashley Stanton.
?She was really sweet,? Rew said. ?I really liked hanging out with her and I hope to see her in the future. I've been thinking about a mentor program, once I saw a commercial for Big Sisters.?
Pupils in Marrs' classes gave presents to other first-graders at Stratton, helping spread the generosity.
?It was fun,? Ashley said. She enjoyed giving as much as she enjoyed getting, she said.
At Christmas, the St. Joseph class handed out winter clothes and other gifts. Many of the clothes fit a dress code at the school.
?I got a real hands-on education on different personal interactions,? Rew said.