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Cary-Grove students donate $20,000 worth of gifts to Chicago school

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Cary-Grove Senior and Interact Club President Patrick Kelly looks out at close to 800 presents that his classmates collected for Richard J. Daley Academy in Chicago Thursday, December 13, 2012. The gifts are valued at $20,000 and will be delivered Thursday.

CARY – Students at Cary-Grove High School delivered two truckloads of gifts valued at $20,000 to an inner-city Chicago school Thursday.

Cary-Grove’s Interact Club, which has adopted a Chicago Public School for the past eight holiday seasons, collected close to 800 presents since Thanksgiving. The gifts were delivered Thursday to Richard J. Daley Academy in Chicago.

Patrick Kelly, a senior at Cary-Grove and the president of Interact, said he was proud his school stepped up to help those who are less fortunate.

“Cary-Grove is a special place,” Kelly said. “A lot of people went out of their way to help others.”

Students at Richard J. Daley wrote “letters to Santa” that were answered by the Interact Club. Kelly said the opportunity to play Santa Claus for a day was a special feeling.

“[The letters] are adorable,” he said. “They are covered in reindeer and Santa. I opened one and it said. ‘I don’t want a present. I just want to say thank you so much for taking time to do a good thing.’ Seeing things like that … you really just want to give all that you can.”

Cary-Grove students started the adopt-a-school program with 25 presents eight years ago. The program has grown to where the students dropped off 550 presents in 2009, 600 presents in 2010 and 650 presents in 2011.

“We are very proud of our kids here,” said Jim Kelly, Dean of Students at Cary-Grove and father of Patrick Kelly. “Not only for their achievements academically and athletically, but the kids at Cary-Grove really have a heart.”

Direct Effects Charities, a nonprofit organization that helps low-income families with children in Chicago Public Schools, worked with Cary-Grove and paired the school with Richard J. Daley Academy.

Matt Hughes is a junior at Cary-Grove and said it was great to see his school get so involved.

“For me, it really makes me proud of our community that we could have over 800 gifts here brought in over two weeks,” said Hughes, who has been a member of Interact since he was a freshman. “Seeing kids coming in late to school because they are carrying in so many presents from their car, it’s just great to see.”

The Interact Club does charitable acts year-round. This year the club shopped at Walmart for low-income children in Elgin and worked at a mobile market that fed 150 Cary families, among other activities.

“It’s nice to see the whole community come together … to spend their own money to bring gifts to inner-city kids,” said Brian O’Connor, a senior at Cary-Grove and the vice president of Interact. “It shows that people are willing to come together to help the community out.”

“A lot of the kids who receive these gifts probably won’t receive too many other gifts for Christmas,” Kelly said. “We have an opportunity to help them for Christmas.”

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