A student from St. Ann School carefully wraps gifts that Homefront children could take home to their families. Mary Stadnyk photos

A student from St. Ann School carefully wraps gifts that Homefront children could take home to their families. Mary Stadnyk photos

By Mary Stadnyk | Associate Editor

The gymnasium in St. Ann School, Lawrenceville, took on a fair-like setting for a couple of hours Dec. 8. Contemporary music played in the background as kids joined in a host of activities. Some were on the court playing basketball while others traveled to the various stations set up around the room where they did activities like decorate cookies, make arts and crafts, play board games and, for the young girls, there was a place where they could get their fingernails painted in bright, sparkling shades.

This event is part of an annual pre-Christmas tradition called the Advent Day of Giving that has been held for at least 10 years and is a time when the seventh- and eighth-grade Confirmation candidates from St. Ann School and parish religious education program set aside a Saturday to host a special gathering for young children.

The students, under the coordination of the school PTA, collaborate with Homefront, a Lawrenceville-based outreach agency that assists families who are struggling to make ends meet and have had experience in dealing with homelessness, and host a gathering for the children of the Homefront families.

“Our kids get to mingle with the Homefront kids for a couple of hours,” said Penny Xia, a school parent and member of the PTA who co-organized this year’s Advent Day of Giving, which drew more than 20 youngsters from Homefront ranging in ages five to 16.

“This is a great opportunity for kids to get involved in community service. It’s overwhelming,” said Xia.

Along with the activities, the event also includes a lunch, a visit from Santa and the special “shopping” excursion that’s organized on the stage where Homefront children can choose gifts for their family members. The gifts, which are designated for women, men and children, were all generously donated by school families and parishioners.

Chris Marchetti, the Joy, Hopes and Dreams program director at Homefront, smiled as he watched the throng of kids from St. Ann Parish and School and Homefront come together in friendship and fellowship.

“They’re pumped up,” Marchetti said of the Homefront children. “They love it here. The kids who have come in the past always ask about when is St. Ann’s holding their Christmas party again. This definitely makes an impression. They get so much out of it. This event helps to brighten the season for our kids.”

St. Ann students agreed that the day is not only fun but is a nice way to help children who have experienced tough situations at home prepare for Christmas.

“Knowing that the kids from Homefront come here and are having a good time makes me happy,” said Sabrina Leiggi, a seventh-grader at St. Ann School, Lawrenceville.

Leiggi added how much she enjoys participating in community service projects saying, “When you do service, you are serving God. And when you serve God, that means you are serving others, too.”

Salvatore Chiaravalloti, St. Ann School principal, remarked on how the Advent Day of Giving provides a wonderful opportunity for students to give back to the community.

“As a school, we are always looking at ways to make students aware of the world around them and prepare them to assist those with less. The interactions the students have with the children from Homefront provide a lasting impression on our students and also allow the guests to realize they are thought about and celebrate a little Christmas cheer,” Chiaravalloti said.

“In speaking to our students who attended, they mentioned wanting more opportunities and how lucky they are to be in a position to provide some cheer to others.”