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Forest Hills School Scraps Holiday Parties to Focus on Giving Back Instead

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | December 20, 2016 4:09pm
 Lisa Suzuki was one of the initiators of the Community Service Campaign at P.S. 101.
Lisa Suzuki was one of the initiators of the Community Service Campaign at P.S. 101.
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Courtesy of Lisa Suzuki

QUEENS — 'Tis the season to think of others and spread the love.

A Forest Hills school decided to focus on giving instead of partying this holiday season in hopes of teaching its students about the importance of helping others.

P.S. 101 The School in the Gardens usually hosts several parties each year, including ones for Halloween and Thanksgiving.

But this season, the school's Parents' Association decided to shift priorities.

“We had too many parties,” said Lisa Suzuki, the school's class parent coordinator and a mother of a fourth-grader and kindergartner.

“Food is not part of the holidays, it’s part of the holidays to spread the love,” Suzuki said. “So we decided — 'let’s give back, no more Thanksgiving parties, let’s do some kind of community service.'”

Other parents and the school's principal Monique Lopez-Paniagua embraced the idea of organizing the Community Service Campaign, and parents and kids chose several charities they decided to support.

"Each class decided what kind of drive they would initiate," Lopez-Paniagua said. "Some chose clothing drives for children in need, some chose food drives to stop child hunger and so forth."

Among the charities and events they supported was the annual Candy Cane Lane at the Long Island City-based Floating Hospital which collects new toys and clothing for homeless children.

They also supported Ellie’s Hats, an organization that gives children with cancer hats while they are losing their hair during chemotherapy, Pennies for Patients, a program run by The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, where students collect change while learning about philanthropy, and New York Cares, which gathers coats for New Yorkers in need.

The school also joined nearby P.S. 303 The Academy for Excellence Through the Arts in their Socks In Box initiative, collecting socks for those in need.

Several weeks after the school placed donation bins throughout its building in November, the kids collected 13 bags of brand new toys and clothes for the Candy Cane Lane event and more than 340 pairs of socks for the Socks in the Box initiative, Suzuki said.

As part of the campaign kids were also asked to do something in the class that was related to charity and giving, Suzuki said.

Some made scarves, other worked on picture frames with inspirational quotes, which were also later donated to homeless children.

Courtesy of Jaisi DiCicco

The students said the campaign inspired them.

“I learned that most people are not as fortunate as others,” said 8-year-old Luca DiCicco, adding that he hopes to be able to help homeless children in the future as well.

Luca’s mother, Jaisi DiCicco, one of the class parents at the school, worked with the kids on their picture frames.

“They really came up with messages that they felt would inspire another child, such as: “You are loved more than you know,” “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming,” “Be positive,” she said.

The campaign, DiCicco said, “gave every child in the school a hands on opportunity to do something and feel that they made a difference.”

“It feels very good,” Luca said.

The school's PA is planning to continue the campaign next year, Suzuki said.