Cottonwood student collects toys for fellow classmates

Luke Ewing, a second-grader at Cottonwood High School, has collected hundreds of Christmas gifts for fellow classmates.

SABLE RILEY/DOTHAN EAGLE

COTTONWOOD — As the countdown to Christmas Day ensues, many kids are jittery with joy and antsy with anticipation, wondering what items on their wish lists will soon be fulfilled between parents, family members and the man in the big red suit.

However, others are anxious that because of difficult life circumstances, they might not get anything at all.

A Cottonwood second-grader experienced the Christmastime blues when he was 4 years old while staying with another family. He was moved when he realized the children there had to play with broken toys. They had no choice.

He didn’t want any of the kids at his school to experience the melancholy sometimes associated with the holiday season. So he put his money where his heart is and saved the weekly allowance he earned from his parents for making good grades for nearly a year to buy as many presents as he could.

“I wanted everyone to have a good Christmas because I want people to be really happy because they are getting some stuff and getting something to be playing with,” Luke Ewing said.

Throughout the year, he and his mom, Julie Roberts, collected coupons, found sales and shopped at local stores — often two to three times a week. He even went “Black Friday sale-ing” to add a variety of gift items to his stockpile.

“I just couldn’t believe how much he had saved up the whole year,” his mom said.

The yearlong project yielded hundreds of gifts, including activity books, toys, puzzles, coloring books, clothing and shoes in all sizes, stickers and more. The 7-year-old had a gift picked out for toddlers and older students — girls and boys.

“I got all this stuff for them to make them to be happy and have a great Christmas,” Luke said.

Cottonwood High School Principal Paul Strange and guidance counselor Kala Hamilton said they were informed of the “gift” by Luke’s mom, but they did not realize the extent of the donation until they began unloading her car Monday.

“I never dreamed that they would have enough stuff to fill up a room,” Strange said.

Hamilton was brought to tears by Luke’s kind act and his understanding of a present need in the community that will lead to at least 32 students being blessed with presents.

“It was shocking because most kids at his age — he’s in the second grade — they’re all about receiving, receiving. But this child really is all about giving,” Hamilton said. “It’s amazing that something like this was laid on his heart to do.”

At least 10 families have been identified by local churches and organizations in the Cottonwood area. Those parents will be able to visit the room of gift items to “shop” for all of their children, regardless of age.

Luke and his parents even provided stockings, bags and bows for the presents.

Roberts said she tried to instill a generous heart in Luke by making him see that some kids don’t have the same things.

“He is very tenderhearted, and he loves everybody,” Roberts said. “Next year, he wants to do it even bigger.”

Strange said last year, Luke gave his old toys to the school to pass on to students in need.

The administration hopes that the generosity will encourage a cycle of paying it forward.

“Maybe this will impact some of our other children here to give next year,” Strange said.

Hamilton credited the administration’s awareness of students’ needs for creating the atmosphere for goodwill in the school, something that has also led to the formation of a closet at the school that provides free clothing.

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