MADISON HEIGHTS — Christmas is about giving, not getting.
Father Gerry LeBoeuf, school president of Bishop Foley Catholic High, has been stressing this point repeatedly. He wants his students to rise above America’s culture of “me, me, me” and see the holidays as a time to reflect on how to serve others.
“We want them to understand that while you’ll wake up Christmas morning with presents under the tree and a hot meal on the table, someone else halfway around the world is alone protecting our country, or someone else is alone in a nursing home or a hospital,” LeBoeuf said. “We need to keep them in mind, as well.”
For the second year in a row, Bishop Foley held its “12 Days of Giving” — actually one day where they worked on 12 causes. All 300-plus students at the school, spanning grades 9-12, came together in the cafeteria at the end of the school day Dec. 3. They were broken up into groups of 12, and each group worked on two of the 12 projects available, rotating between them.
The students were encouraged to wear red and green, and some wore Santa hats and reindeer antlers, as well. Along with the Christmas music piping over the P.A. system, and the cookies and hot chocolate being served, it created a festive atmosphere.
By LeBoeuf’s estimation, they will impact more than 800 lives this year. He first conceived the initiative last year as a year-end extension of their annual “Be the Difference Day,” a massive volunteer effort each spring that sees faculty and staff fanning out across the metro Detroit area.
For this year’s “12 Days of Giving,” the 12 projects were:
• Candy canes and note cards for children at Holy Family Child Services campuses across metro Detroit, where foster children who have been removed from their families are placed until the situation stabilizes.
• Snack packages for the Capuchin Soup Kitchen in Detroit, as well as fleece scarves for those in homeless shelters.
• Snowflake-themed cards for military veterans in a VA hospital in Detroit, featuring hand-written notes from the students thanking the veterans for their service, and showing appreciation for the sacrifices they made to give them the freedoms they enjoy today.
• Personalized Christmas cards for children spending the holiday season at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, either due to injury or illness.
• Decorative items donated to Catholic elementary schools, including foam bookmarks depicting snowmen, reindeer, Christmas trees, and so on, with jolly phrases like “Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight,” and construction-paper reindeer with hand-traced antlers and peppermint noses.
• Handmade ornaments for the Cambridge nursing home facilities in Bishop Foley’s coverage area.
• Candy cane reindeer with pipe-cleaner antlers, red fuzz-ball noses and googly eyes, for the local Fire Departments and Police Departments.
• “Hero cards” for servicemen and women on active duty, away from home for the holidays, with spiritual imagery on one side and a personalized message on the other.
• Illustrated placemats, to brighten up meals at the Cambridge nursing home facilities.
• Candy cane mice, the body and ears fashioned out of felt, for the seniors at the St. Aloysius Senior Center.
• “Faith cards,” aimed at senior priests in the Archdiocese of Detroit, sharing Christmas cheer with retired clergymen who no longer celebrate Christmas with a church community, since they are now in senior centers or being cared for.
• “Spiritual flowers,” presented to the students after they take a moment in the chapel to meditate on someone they can help this holiday season, other than family or friends, by being there for them, laughing with them, complimenting them or listening to them. Included with each flower was a note reminding them to make a difference.
“The fact the students took the time to work on this stuff is special,” LeBoeuf said. “These aren’t mass emails that were sent, or store-bought gifts.”
In addition to working on the “12 Days of Giving,” students and staff were encouraged to donate to the school’s Adopt a Family program, providing gifts and meals to families in need this holiday season. A couple of the kids even took it upon themselves to go around the cafeteria collecting donations in a Santa hat. Bishop Foley is aiming to adopt four families this holiday season.
Sharon Hammerschmidt, mission and ministry director at Bishop Foley, said the students really respond to these efforts.
“The students absolutely enjoyed it,” said Hammerschmidt. “They really got into the projects, knowing they would help brighten the day for someone who might be spending the holidays alone. They were able to help spread some of that holiday cheer.”
Bishop Foley Catholic High School is located at 32000 N. Campbell in Madison Heights and can be reached at (248) 585-1210.