The second annual Reason for the Season event was held at New Brunswick's Livingston Elementary School, where more than $10,000 was raised through a GoFundMe effort.
"Everyone cares about our kids," principal Nadine Sanchez said. "We all care about our community, and I think it showed."
It is the work of 2020 Middlesex County Teacher of the Year Jennifer Olawski, who continued the program she began years ago while working at the Community Charter School in Paterson.
There, a little girl's story changed her life and sent her on a mission.
"She told me she never received a gift," Olawski said. "And so that night, it was going through my mind. I couldn't shake it."
She was aided by her friends and family in raising enough money to buy all 500 kids at the school a holiday gift, and a tradition was born the helps ensure every child has a very Merry Christmas.
Some 400 children are starting their Christmas off with music, laughter and a surprise after 10K was raised to make sure every child walks away with a present. pic.twitter.com/OXH2yveVOW— Anthony Johnson (@AJohnsonwabc7) December 20, 2019
"I just wanted to shine some light on the positive and teach them they can make a difference," she said.
Before the great reveal, the kids made a pledge, and a promise.
"I will speak it, believe it, be it," they said. "Whenever you get a chance to make someone smile, do it. Whenever you get a chance to make someone laugh, do it."
And then the fun began, with former New York Giant Jonathan Casillas handing out candy canes in the community where he was raised.
"It's the time of year we all give," he said.
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