Day 7: Forest Hill PS’s HERO Gift Shop

With a quick visit to Forest Hill Public School’s HERO Gift Shop, it’s hard to spot the difference between giving and getting.

Students selecting gifts at the HERO Shop

Students have wrapped their gifts from the HERO Shop

“It’s been such an amazing experience,” says Rebecca Bearinger-Fay. “And the giving just keeps on happening.”

Each day, staff are on the lookout to see their students doing something kind. They then recognize this act with a coupon for the HERO Gift Shop, where students can pick out a donated item to “buy” for someone on their gift list. Next stop? Wrapping the presents.

“It’s wonderful to see so much gratitude and giving in our community,” says teacher and HERO Gift Shop pioneer Tracey van Willigen. “The community gave the gifts, and volunteers give their time to staff the shop. The students are giving their presents, and on and on it goes.”

Volunteers include four high school students, retired staff members, the crossing guard, the school’s Community Resource Officer and parents. “It’s a great way for the friends and family members of the school community to give to a place we all feel is so special,” says Tracey.

Spirits are high at the HERO Shop – and for good reason. For many of these students, this is their first chance to buy a gift for a loved one. They take their time making their selections, making certain they find just the right gift.

“I bought my grandma a fuzzy scarf with cats on it, because she likes cats and likes to name them” says a young student in Junior Kindergarten.

“I’m kind and quiet on the carpet and I also helped my friend open his container, so I got to go to the store,” says another Kindergarten student. “I bought my mom a new purse.” Asked why, “Oh, i don’t know – my brain told me to do it. My mom loved it!”

“Our goal is to celebrate the kindness of all our students,” says Erin Coccimiglio who’s partnering with Tracey to make the shop a success.

Forrest Hill’s students, staff and family are all feeling the joy that’s come from celebrating both acts of kindness and giving to others. The shop is busy and students are keen to be able to give a special gift.

We are counting down 12 days of giving where we feature some of the wonderful acts of kindness our staff and students are modelling during the holiday season.

You can check out all of the great acts of giving in our schools (there’s more than just 12) by following us on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.