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Orchard Park teens bring Christmas cheer to kids

The Junior Class at Orchard Park High School has been trying to make a difference in the lives of many this holiday season by participating in the Christmas Is for Kids drive.
Junior Bridget McNulty brought the charity to the attention of junior class officers. She got involved through her dad years ago and felt that it would be a great idea to bring it into the school this year. "I wanted to help children in need so I started with this volunteer project in sixth grade and have been doing it ever since," Bridget said.

The program, run by the Alliance for the Mentally Ill in Buffalo and Erie County, gives gifts such as games, clothes and art supplies to children and adolescents who have to spend the holidays in psychiatric hospitals and other forms of psychiatric care. The program has been running for about 15 years and started out at a local soup kitchen. Program organizer Mary Kirkland said: "There is a really good feeling that those with a mental illness are not forgotten during the holidays." This year there are 600 young people in need of gifts. These gifts mean a lot to these young people who "are folks like everyone else," Kirkland said.

Bridget, the Junior Class officers, and Junior Class homeroom representatives put up posters to let students know about the drive and put boxes in each junior homeroom where students could drop off gifts. Bridget and the class officers offered a donut, bagel and cider breakfast to the homeroom that collected the most gifts.

Most juniors were happy to help. Junior Caroline Ganson said: "I think it's really great that our class is putting forth such an effort to help those in need, especially teenagers like ourselves." Junior Kristen Gabriele said: "This was a great project for our class because everyone could help and it made you feel good knowing you helped brighten someone's holidays."
Junior Class Secretary Heather Ross said the effort brought in more than 200 gifts. "I'm really glad we got involved," she said. Gifts included eye shadow and lip gloss, nerf footballs, books and a variety of board games.

Junior Class President T.J. Bolt said: "It's a really great charity and I'm glad we can be a part of it and help out. The class has really pulled together to help make this charity a success."

Allison Sirica is a junior at Orchard Park High School.

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