Students stuff stockings with love

Published 9:50 am Wednesday, December 8, 2004

By By SPIROS GALLOS / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Room 63 in Niles High School was a bustle of activity and holiday cheer Tuesday after school.
The classroom belongs to special education teacher Karissa Fuller and the bustle of activity were students from the Drug Free Players club stuffing stockings and wrapping gifts.
The presents being wrapped were for the five needy families the club adopted through the Salvation Army of Niles family adoption program and the stockings were being stuffed full of items to be sent to United States Marines in Iraq.
The idea for the "Stockings for Soldiers" originated when Pat Peterson, another special education teacher at the high school, sent an e-mail to Fuller, asking if she would have students send cards to her son, U.S Marine Lance Corporal Keith Peterson, who had informed Pat that he was homesick while stationed in Iraq.
When Fuller presented the idea to the students about a week ago, they decided to do more than just send cards to the soldiers, and said they wanted to send them stockings filled with items such as batteries, toothpaste, sun block, and pens which the soldiers needed.
The club has stuffed 25 stockings and Fuller said students keep bringing in more items to send to the soldiers. Students in some of Fuller's classes have also written notes and cards to send to Peterson and his unit, which is stationed 50 miles outside of Fallujah.
Pat said she's impressed with the club's willingness to help the troops stationed in Iraq.
Fuller thinks the "stockings for soldiers" is particularly special because Peterson is a Niles High School alumnus.
Keith graduated from Niles High School in 1999 and has been in the marines for three years. He's been on his current tour of duty since August 10th and is expected to return home sometime in March, Pat said.
Sophomore Scott Bailey, who plays on the varsity soccer and junior varsity basketball and baseball teams, said taking part in the "stockings for soldiers" program is important to remind those stationed overseas that their efforts are appreciated.
In addition to sending care stockings to the soldiers, the Drug Free Players club also adopted five needy families in the Niles area for the holiday season.
Students went out and bought items on Christmas lists the families provided to the Salvation Army of Niles, many with their own money, Fuller said.
Students aren't the only ones springing into action to donate items for the adopted families. One Niles High School family bought a bedspread for one of the families without any questions, Fuller said.
This is the third year the Drug Free Players club has adopted families during the holiday season. The first year, the club adopted one family and last year, two families were adopted.
Fuller said she has students asking her each year when they will get the Christmas lists from the needy families so they can go buy the presents.
Sophomore Alex Ranft thinks taking part in the adopt-a-family program is important because it helps needy families and it brings a sense of pride.
Fuller feels it's important for members of the community to see students taking part in service projects like the adopt-a-family and "stockings for soldiers" programs.