Pickerington students this year again embraced the spirit of the holidays by taking on a wealth of charitable and other outreach projects, according to the district's superintendent.

Pickerington students this year again embraced the spirit of the holidays by taking on a wealth of charitable and other outreach projects, according to the district's superintendent.

The holidays are one of Pickerington Local School District Superintendent Rob Walker's favorite times of the year, but it's not because he's particularly fond of winter or breaks from classes.

Rather, Walker said it's a time of year in which he and the Pickerington community can look to the selfless acts of its teachers, staff and young people, who continue to take on projects to help others and boost spirits.

As he did in his first year as the district's top administrator, Walker again this year highlighted the types of holiday giving taking place throughout each district building.

"This is completely teacher- and principal- and building-led," Walker said last week.

"The whole purpose of this is hopefully teaching kids it's better to give than receive and the whole feeling they get by knowing they're helping people in need," he said.

"If we can help out, I feel we have a responsibility to teach that."

According to information provided by Walker, students -- as well as teachers and staff members at their schools -- took part this holiday season in a number of way including:

* Fairfield Elementary School -- Students participated in the PCMA Food Pantry of Pickerington's annual Plaza of Lights fundraiser to help provide food to individuals and families in need, as well as a toy drive for the Violet Township Fire Department.

Fourth-grade students at the school also held a hot chocolate sale with proceeds going to local families in need.

* Heritage Elementary School -- Students delivered more than 30 poinsettias and handmade cards to the Amber Park Assisted Living Facility, collected and donated money to the PCMA Food Pantry and collected winter clothing to provide to local children in need.

* Pickerington Elementary School -- Students collected change during a book sale to purchase educational materials, wrote letters and colored pictures to send to U.S. soldiers serving overseas, raised $500 to provide livestock, feed trees and other resources to people in developing nations and donated to the fire department's Toy Drive.

Students also participated in the PCMA Food Pantry's Plaza of Lights campaign, raised money for The Heart Center at Nationwide Children's Hospital and collected donations for Nellie's Catwalk for kids, a nonprofit that supports families dealing with pediatric cancer.

* Sycamore Creek Elementary School -- The school's Bucket Club filled 160 "Blessing Bags" for the STAR House and the Lower Lights homeless shelters' Christmas celebrations.

Students throughout the school also donated winter clothing to local families in need, and its fourth-graders collected coffee, cups and snack items for the Chalmers P. Wylie Ambulatory Care Center in Columbus.

* Toll Gate Elementary School -- Students donated more than nine boxes of food for Thanksgiving dinners, collected toys for the fire department Toy Drive, donated to the PCMA's Plaza of Lights and held a Festival of Trees event to raise funds Filipino typhoon victims and the Ryan's Well organization.

* Tussing Elementary School -- Students donated 600 toothbrushes and 150 disinfectant wipes to the Ronald McDonald House, sent 100 cards to U.S. soldiers overseas, provided more than 50 winter coats to Coat Closet and sent holiday "thank you" ornaments to Tide Cleaners for cleaning more than 30 coats at no charge.

Students also donated to the PCMA Food Pantry's Plaza of Lights, made cards and ornaments to men in Hospice care at Wexner Heritage Village and collaborated with a local Boy Scouts troop to provide more than 150 Pickerington Local School District families with toys.

* Violet Elementary School -- Students donated to the firefighters Toy Drive, and helped provide winter clothing to local families in need.

They also sponsored a coat drive in November and worked with a local church to provide food bags to fellow students in need.

* Diley Middle School -- Students donated more than 1,500 items to the PCMA Food Pantry and more than $3,000 worth of bicycles and electronic items for the firefighters Toy Drive.

A sixth-grade team also donated 125 pairs of shoes for Filipino typhoon victims.

* Harmon Middle School -- Students donated items to the PCMA Food Pantry, made 75 fleece blankets to donate to Fairfield County Children's Services and sent 100 cards to U.S. military personnel.

Through the Harmon Hearts campaign, students also provided the fire department with $3,000 to assist area families in need.

* Toll Gate Middle School -- Students donated more than 1,300 items to the PCMA Food Pantry and collected donations for the Plaza of Lights campaign.

Students also raised more than $2,500 for the Adopt-A-Family program.

* Lakeview Junior High School -- Students sponsored an "Ugly Sweater Day" and "Holiday Hat Day" with proceeds going to the PLSD Holiday Assistance Program and collected money through Candy Grams to donate to the Ronald McDonald House.

Staff members also contributed to the school district's Holiday Assistance Program.

* Ridgeview Junior High School -- Students donated 350 items to the PCMA Food Pantry.

Parents, staff and other community members connected to the school also donated 397 hours of service to various assistance programs.

Additionally, students donated a total of $4,888 collected during a "Jeans Day" fundraiser to nine different assistance programs.

* Pickerington High School Central -- Student Council sponsored five families through an "Adopt-A-Family" program, while students who are members of the Students Against Destructive Decisions organization volunteered to collect donations for the Salvation Army and Key Club members collected items for a Children's Hospital toy drive.

Club Hope members also provided gift-wrapping services to the Make A Wish Foundation, the school's Special Education Department donated crayons and other items to Children's Hospital and students throughout the school collected cards and toys for the firefighters' Toy Drive.

* Pickerington High School North -- Students raised $4,175 to adopt six local families through a "Caring and Sharing" program, adopted another four families to support through the firefighters' Toy Drive and donated money to the PCMA Food Pantry.

"Teaching kids to grow and be good citizens is something I think our community expects," Walker said.

"The great educators we have always try to balance fun activities with educational learning," he said.

"We can always find someone in need, and I wanted our community to know that is something that's still being taught."