by Larry Austin
Student volunteers at Grand Island High School helped to make the holiday a little brighter for children, the needy, and student clubs at the Share the Holiday Magic fundraiser.
Held in the GIHS Viking Mall Wednesday night, the event enjoyed a robust turnout, according to organizers.
Student Council advisor Bob Simpson said Share the Holiday Magic, in its second year, drew a bigger crowd than in its inaugural edition.
"Actually, we might need a bigger venue next year. It was kind of crowded," Simpson said, calling the crowd issue "a good problem to have."
"We're really excited about the turnout."
Money raised by the event is going to the Grand Island Neighbors Foundation and the Grand Island Lions Club, Simpson said, noting that the Lions Club donated half the money for unadorned Christmas trees. Student clubs, some sponsored by Island businesses, volunteered to decorate the trees for charity. Patrons then cast ballots for the best decorated tree with tickets purchased at the door.
The students "don't even think they're volunteering, they think they're having a fun time," Simpson said. "Kids are really getting into the spirit as well."
Organized by the GIHS Student Council with support from the Grand Island Parks and Recreation Department and the Lions Club, the event had a threefold purpose, said Kelly Ruminski, Student Council president: money raised supports "giving back to the Lions Club and the Neighbors Foundation"; activities for families in the Viking Mall brought "the whole community together, all the little kids, to celebrate the holidays"; and the Christmas tree decorating contest would reward a GIHS club or organization with money for club activities.
Ruminski said the students look forward to volunteering. Last month, the Student Council's first-ever Vikings for Veterans 5K run raised $3,000 for a local veterans organization, she said.
Another December event at the school is a canned food drive to support the Neighbors Foundation.
"Here at school, we're all having a competition to see what homeroom can get the most cans, and then that homeroom is also going to win a breakfast in the morning," Ruminski said.
Later this month, members of the Student Council will deliver their canned goods donations to the Neighbors Foundation at the Knights of Columbus Hall for sorting and delivery to needy Island families, she said.