Project Give gave a bounty of gifts Tuesday morning at Jane E. Tuitt Elementary School, which in turn gave back generously in the holiday spirit of joyful song and dance as the students performed with the dedication and seriousness only very young children convey.
For the second year in a row, a group of elves led by Montessori teacher Elizabeth Elger did the unbelievable: they raised $10,000 to give each of the Tuitt students a gift from Santa. It’s a joint effort by the Montessori School and Peter Gruber International Academy, the Montessori Rotary Interact Club and Rotary Club of St. Thomas Sunrise, whose adopted school is Tuitt.
Everybody got into the act. Elger started her fundraising earlier this year than last, when in less than a week, they raised the staggering $10,000, a remarkable feat once, but twice? Well, twice wasn’t that easy.
Elger came to Rotary Sunrise the second week in December to ask for support. She said that the Project was $3,000 short of its $10,000 goal this year, a figure based on $50 for each of the 200 children.
The community heard her loud and clear. Elger said Tuesday, "We had a $2,000 donation from WAPA and that put us over."
The students performed totally unaware of all the orchestration that had gone into the effort.
All the students write a letter to Santa telling him what they want. This lays the groundwork for Elger and her elves, who do their best to get each child his or her wish.
In fact, Elger and her elves were busily putting the final touches on the presents at the ceremony, hidden in a back room where each student’s presents were put in a plastic bag with a name and number on the outside, lined up according to each teacher’s class. This was the final result of all the shopping, bagging and wrapping they have been doing for the last two weeks.
Santa, aka Dennis Parker, almost blew his cover when a group of third-graders spotted him standing in his civvies, with his real gray beard. "Look, look, that’s him!" one child shouted, to which Parker gravely just shook his head.
However, when he emerged from a nearby classroom later, he was besieged by the same youngsters. "I told you!” one said, "and here he is."
Parker, it must be said, made a fine Santa, his real beard obscured by the false white one, as he exchanged a few words with each of the 200 children, ever a smiling Santa.
The youngsters performed everything from xylophones to bells and drums. Three little girls, professionally calling themselves "The Sparkles," played a lively version of "My Favorite Things," while five older youngsters did "Silent Night" on hand bells and "The Starlights" did a drum number.
One of the morning’s scene stealers was 9-year-old Isaac Vincente-Gomez, who stood tall, alone on the stage, squared his shoulders and lamented in song, "I’m Gettin Nuttin’ for Christmas," with a straight face until the number was over, when he broke into a big smile at the applause.
He said later that it had taken him only two weeks to memorize the ditty. He added, "What I really want is a helicopter," which Santa likely had heard.
The kindergarten’s "Away in A Manger," complete with hand motions, was a heartbreaker. It had the audience in its hands with oohs and aahs.
Music teacher Kan Constantine-Gabriel, who had conducted it all with a firm hand, said after the performance that she was pleased. "It’s not easy," she said, which must be an understatement. She said she has taught music for 10 years, the last three at Tuitt. "I love it," she said.