OEC students raise more than $3,900 for adopt-a-family

by Elyse Kaner
Staff Writer

Students in Spring Lake Park High School’s Opportunities in Emergency Care program for the 17th year in a row brightened the holidays of local families in an adopt-a-family project.

Thirty students enrolled in the high school’s emergency medical technician class raised $3,913 this year, surpassing their original goal of $3,500.

Seventy-eight people received gifts this year as part of the project.

“One kid said that was the coolest thing he’d ever done. He was so pumped,” Bill Neiss, OEC director said, about an EMT student who was caught up in the spirit of collecting donations, shopping for and wrapping holiday gifts.

The students collected funds Nov. 21-Dec. 14. They visited every classroom in the high school in a two-day period making a pitch for their cause. They also collected money at lunch. Some asked family, friends and neighbors to contribute, while many dipped into their own pockets and gave. Parents of former students gave. An alumnus donated $500, according to Neiss.

Two local organizations, the Spring Lake Park Lions and the high school’s student council chipped in and Super Target of Blaine donated $350. The student council donated funds it raised from its annual Battle of the Bands event, which features student rock bands in competition.

This year, the OEC group collaborated with Minneapolis-based Episcopal Community Services for a list of names of gift recipients.

OEC has worked with Kinship of Minneapolis since starting the project in 1995 to connect underprivileged families with groups wanting to buy holiday gifts for children. But because of staff cuts, Kinship eliminated the adopt-a-family project this year, Neiss said.

Last year, OEC students collected $4,505 to purchase gifts for families in need.

Neiss said he believes contributions were down a bit because of the slow economy and because last year two sections of his EMT classes ran the campaign, meaning twice as many kids collecting funds. This year, one section collected for the drive.

“The whole thing never fails to amaze me,” Neiss said. “You give kids a chance to do something to help people and they always come through.”

Each year, the classes have met and exceeded their fund-raising goals.

Some kids take the concept further after they graduate and start an adopt-a-family program in their new setting, essentially creating a ripple effect of good will, Neiss said.

Since its inception, the OEC adopt-a-family project has raised $59,787.

Elyse Kaner is at [email protected]