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Dear Santa...
by Garrett E. Valenzuela
Dec 12, 2013 | 15006 views | 0 0 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- Haylee Christ, a fifth grade student at Nevada Connections Academy, displays her letter to Santa she used to express her desire to help underprivileged children this Christmas. The letter was mailed through Macy's Believe program which donates $1 for every letter to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Tribune photo by Garrett Valenzuela -- Haylee Christ, a fifth grade student at Nevada Connections Academy, displays her letter to Santa she used to express her desire to help underprivileged children this Christmas. The letter was mailed through Macy's Believe program which donates $1 for every letter to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
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Ten-year-old Haylee Christ chronicled her thoughts in personal journals out of habit, honing her writing skills and keeping them sharp until her next classroom writing assignment. But the holiday season came with a new challenge for the fifth grader when she set her eyes on helping children through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Her letter to Santa was one of many that students at Nevada Connections Academy in Sparks used to express their desire to help other children less fortunate and, simultaneously, to have $1 donated to providing for those children in northern Nevada through a partnership with Macy’s Believe campaign.

Christ was simply told by her teachers that Make-A-Wish Foundation helps “kids’ dreams come true,” and from there her letter-writing process came naturally.

“I think I was most proud of what I asked Santa for,” Christ said inside the meeting room of the online-centric academy. “I asked him to reach out to those children who need it most. I was really excited about (writing to Santa) because I felt that it was for a really good cause and I was excited to be a part of it.”

In her letter, Christ was humbled in asking Santa to help the “warm-hearted children who don’t have all the things I have,” and she asked that “extra love” and “Christmas joy” be delivered to those children.

Deedee Christ, Haylee’s mother, said seeing her daughter understand her situation and convey a sense of selflessness was “amazing.”

“I always let her know, and my two other kids as well, that we need to be thankful for everything that we have because there are so many people out there who don’t have that,” Deedee said. “We just need to be grateful for what we have and not always be wanting things that we can’t have.”

Nevada Connections Academy has worked with Make-A-Wish previously, but 2013 marked the first year of partnering with Macy’s Believe campaign and encouraging students to write letters to Santa to raise money. Only a few tags remained on the Make-A-Wish tree inside the school’s administration office Thursday and second-grade teacher Regina Johnson said the fundraising program benefited students and teachers alike.

“Teachers get brainstorming ideas and lesson plans for their students’ writing that help reach them on an educational level,” Johnson said. “Also, learning that they are giving back to the community and knowing that a dollar is going to a charity like Make-A-Wish has been great for students and teachers.”

Macy’s Believe campaign, which has pledged $1 per letter nationwide up to $1 million to Make-A-Wish, has strived to “inspire a national movement toward acts of kindness and goodwill toward others,” according to a media release. Macy’s and Make-A-Wish teamed up for National Believe Day recently where children with life-threatening medical conditions had their wishes granted during the Wish Across America program.

“My goal for students is to know what it is like to be able to give back to the community and to be able to have that hands-on experience and learn about it in not only their academics but also through school,” said Johnson, who has been a volunteer for Make-A-Wish for two years.

Though Haylee was experiencing her first immersion in community outreach and service, she said it was likely not her final time. Her mother said the selfless spirit and community service, whether it came through Nevada Connections Academy or otherwise, will play an important role in her daughter’s future.

“I think it is very important because they don’t have the social aspect of the school itself,” Deedee said, referencing the online-based curriculum. “Being able to be out there in the public and know what is going on, is very important so they can stay involved and continue to know that not everybody has life the way they live it. There are people who are definitely less fortunate than they are.”
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