The first-ever Share the Holiday Magic event at Grand Island High School packed the Viking Mall in the spirit of Christmas and collaboration.
The Grand Island Student Council, the GI Lions Club, and the town's Recreation Department joined forces for holiday spirit, drawing hundreds of townspeople for holiday fellowship Wednesday night.
Town Parks and Recreation Director Linda Tufillaro said this year's town holiday event is "much bigger" than the similar events held at Town Hall in years past.
Among the activities, 12 student groups decorated Christmas trees for auction, with proceeds to benefit the Lions.
"It's the start of a good program," Tufillaro said of Share the Holiday Magic, especially the night's fundraising aspect.
Bob Simpson, advisor to GIHS Student Council, said the students "spearheaded this event," which has an educational component in that through charitable works, students get a better understanding of the hardships of others, he said.
Brittanee Ramallo, president of the Student Council, said the event spurred donations of canned goods for the Grand Island Neighbors Foundation.
"People are bringing bags and bags of stuff here, and it's great," she said.
"I think it's a great way to raise money and bring the community together with all the kids," she said.
Lions Club Treasurer Dick Crawford called the partnership with the holiday program a win for the Lions, thanks to the efforts of teachers Cheryl Chamberlain and Simpson.
"We're very happy that Cheryl Chamberlain and Bob Simpson and the district were instrumental in getting this program going," Crawford said, and in making it "a big community celebration."
"I would say already we've gone over and above what we did last year."
The event even had its own anonymous Scrooge at the New York State Education Department, who decided live trees don't belong in a school. They were moved outside.
"Neighbors, Lions Club ... I think it's great," Tufillaro said of the fundraising. "I'm glad to see that the school and the town are keeping Christmas Christmas."