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‘Wishes’ come true for Christmas in Pardeeville

December 25, 2018
From left, Pardeeville High School freshmen Sydnie Wheeler and Megan Pomplun wrap presents Tuesday with fourth-graders Khloe Helm and Haley Gard for the school district's Christmas Wishes program, which provides gifts to families in need.

PARDEEVILLE — Fourth-grader Nadia Ballweg found it easy to explain her feelings about the Pardeeville Area School District’s Christmas Wishes program.

“It feels good,” she said.

Nadia was among about 20 Pardeeville Elementary fourth-graders who were paired with high school students Tuesday afternoon wrapping Christmas gifts, and she said she knew the program would provide gifts for families in need.

That’s all she needed to know.

“It makes them happy. It can improve their lives,” Nadia said.

The Pardeeville Christmas Wishes tree had nearly 100 tags detailing the desired gifts for local children, said high school counselor and student council adviser Crystal Huset, who leads the program alongside library technology specialist and student council adviser Amber Houslet. Elementary and high school student councils raised awareness about the tags, took donations from the community and in November hosted soup luncheons for staff in their respective schools, collectively raising about $800 for the gifts.

On Monday night, senior Tanner Johnson and a few other high school students shopped for the presents, which, after Tuesday’s wrapping, were picked up by four local families. Johnson, the high school student council president, has participated in the program in each of his four years of high school, believing its chief value is “getting younger kids involved — getting them to know that other people in the community need help,” he said. His parents had in the past volunteered their efforts for a similar program at Midwest Dental in Pardeeville and it gave him perspective.

“It’s just an important time of year, especially for younger children,” Johnson said.

It was difficult for Johnson to put into words what a “bad” Christmas might look like because he never had one.

Natalie Farrington, a junior, agreed with him. She had found the shopping experience on Monday to be somewhat “surreal” as she and her peers walked around Kohl’s and Target in Madison thinking about the program’s purpose. The purchased items included blankets, socks, basketballs, slippers, makeup and even cat and dog treats for family pets.

“Usually when you’re shopping, you’re buying for yourself or your family,” Farrington said. “So it’s just a different feeling when you don’t know who you’re buying for but know that whoever is receiving the gift will really appreciate it.”

Farrington said the biggest part of being a student council member is giving back to the community. Thinking about her positive experiences at Christmastime provided all the motivation she needed.

“I never had to struggle and I understand others do,” she said. “Christmas is important to me and I know it’s important for them — it’s important for everyone to have a good Christmas.

“If you’re someone who is fortunate enough to buy gifts for all of your friends and family, then wouldn’t it be good to take the time to think about those who aren’t that lucky?”

Huset estimated the Wishes program to be at least 10 years old. It is anonymous — the tags provide no indication of who will receive the gifts, she said — and its value seems to involve everyone who participates.

“The mentoring relationship among elementary and high school students is really nice to see,” Huset said. “They had worked separately, but now they’re tying it all together and seeing the amount of gifts they were able to purchase, collectively, and how many people they’re helping.

“During our senior exit interviews, the students are asked to pick one thing they find meaningful, and every year this event comes up. It’s special.”

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