Children responded with sad and concerned faces when Kiddie Academy teachers told them there are children in Reynoldsburg who may find no presents under the tree on Christmas morning.
"Our staff sat with the children and discussed the need for toy donations this holiday season," said Angi Rider, district coordinator of Kiddie Academy and its latchkey program. "As the staff spoke with the children, the children's faces were filled with sorrow and sadness. But as soon as we let them know they could collect toys for Reynoldsburg Toys for Kids, they were extremely excited."
Rider said the children in the Latchkey Explorer program collected 200 toys between Dec. 3 and Dec. 14.
"A trifold display was set up at each of our latchkey schools that stated, 'Light up a Child's Life' with a bare tree on it," she said. "After each child brought in a toy, we would add a light bulb to their tree."
Kiddie Academy provides latchkey service to all six district elementary schools and all three middle schools in the Reynoldsburg district.
Rider said Creative Explorer students are those who attend the before-school and after-school care and the Kindergarten wraparound programs. In all, 520 students are enrolled in the Kiddie Academy daycare and Creative Explorer programs in Reynoldsburg.
She said the Truro Township Fire Department picked up the toys for its Reynoldsburg Toys for Kids program on Dec. 14.
The program donates toys for children of all ages that reside in or attend school in the Reynoldsburg City School District.
Rider said the latchkey programs at the schools set goals for the toy collection.
"Three of the schools met their goals and one school, Taylor Road Elementary, doubled their goal," she said.
She said Kiddie Academy will conduct more service learning projects in the future.
"We hope to soon adopt a unit at Children's Hospital and will participate in Adopt a Grandparent at a local senior citizen agency," she said.
Service learning should start early, Rider said.
"I believe when we involve students in service projects, we are teaching them valuable skills in helping others and becoming part of their community," she said. "The children experience that 'feel good' feeling and the social and cognitive benefits are endless when children are involved in these types of projects.
"I am extremely proud of what they accomplished and the spark this gives them to help again," she said.
Rider said since Kiddie Academy has become the district's latchkey provider, children have benefited from new learning experiences.
"The Creative Explorers program offers a wide range of enrichment clubs, engaging activities and extended support for what they are learning in school," she said. "Our kindergarten wraparound program offers students a full day of kindergarten, with more time spent on reading, literacy and mathematics, and I believe we are preparing students more for first grade."