LAKEWOOD RANCH — This year, students at The Out-of-Door Academy are celebrating Thanksgiving in true fashion.
During the last few weeks, students in every grade have collected non-perishable and canned food items for families in need at Gocio Elementary School in Sarasota. This week, 50 families received gift baskets full of food items, including a frozen turkey, which they can use to celebrate Thanksgiving.
“It really hits home more considering these are families with kids that aren’t getting food,” ODA junior Tim Dobosz said. “It’s really sad, and it makes you want to help out more.
“It’s really humbling, and it’s really important to do this because I find there’s a lack of togetherness in society today,” he said. “I think it’s important we rise together as (students), as a school, to help people in need.”
ODA’s Upper School students gathered Tuesday morning in the gymnasium for an assembly to symbolically set a Thanksgiving table, hear speeches about Thanksgiving memories and reflect on the importance of being thankful and giving back to the community.
“Everyone can get together and see what we as a community have managed to do,” ODA’s Director of Community Service Debby Frye said of the assembly. “The students get to reflect on how important it is to give back and be thankful for what we have.”
Frye said ODA students have put similar gift baskets together for the last five years or so for the Adopt-a-Family program in Sarasota County, but the operation no longer is running.
“They fell on hard times from what we’ve been able to gather,” Frye said. “We looked around for another opportunity.”
Through ODA’s participation in the Warren Backpack Program, it already was sending homeless children at five elementary schools away with backpacks full of food each weekend. Frye said carrying the idea forward for Thanksgiving made sense, especially when ODA learned Gocio had several migrant worker families in need.
“We decided to put together 50 Thanksgiving dinners together for 50 deserving families,” she said.
Frye said programs such a making the Thanksgiving baskets play an important role in teaching ODA students to be community-minded.
“One of our objectives as a school is to try to create a student with a heart as well as academically gifted and academically stretched,” Frye said. “We also want to instill character and good moral values. It’s hard not to realize how many people are in need right now.
“We would not be doing our jobs as educators if we didn’t help our students experience that and teach them to give back. Our students here are just pleased to be able to put together a nice Thanksgiving dinner for a family that wouldn’t have a dinner otherwise.”
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