Caroline Linn didn’t tear at the tissue paper or pull the item out of the bag. She just kept smiling and walked back to her seat, content to let the surprise inside the decorative holiday gift bag wait. After hearing Caroline’s story, I’m not surprised at her patience.
Caroline is a first-grade student at Siegrist Elementary in the Platte County R-3 School District with a big heart, according to Platte County executive director Jen Beutel. All in attendance at a packed board of education meeting this past week, myself included, learned a pretty big lesson from Caroline at the perfect time.
Most of you while reading this will be on some sort of holiday break, a time of sharing and giving. Rarely does a person as young as Caroline understand those themes so well. Over this past summer, she ran a lemonade stand but didn’t keep the proceeds. Instead, she donated the money to Platte County’s new venture: Treasure Chest.
If you haven’t read about it previously, Treasure Chest is housed in Platte County’s old central office building in the high school parking lot. It now houses into a facility capable of providing food, clothing, toiletries and other home supplies for families of students in need. The concept came from the collaboration of district social workers, pupil services staff and interested parent and community volunteers.
Caroline’s lemonade money became Treasure Chest’s first cash donation.
But her work didn’t stop there, because as Beutel said, “It’s important for Caroline to share her gifts with others.” During this school year, she used her own money to purchase bedding – pillows, blankets, comforter – for two students in need. The whole set matched, a first for these little girls who received Caroline’s generosity.
Caroline has also gone through her own clothes and toys to find items to donate.
Still not enough. Caroline enjoys her Beanie Boos, a plush product the Ty toy company produces. She calls them “lovies” and wanted to find a way to purchase 20 of them for students in need of just the right gift at the holidays.
Problem: Caroline could only afford to buy three of the lovies, which retail from what I can tell at about $5 apiece. So she wrote a simple letter to Ty:
“Dear Beanie Boo company, Can you please send me some Beanie Boos to my school. They will go to kids who need ‘lovies.’ Thank you for your help, Caroline Linn”
Caroline hasn’t received word back, but Cassie Linn, her mother, and Beutel have already started doing some work on her behalf.
Beutel presented Caroline’s accomplishments to the board during its regular meeting on Thursday. She received a standing ovation first from district and elected officials and then the whole room. Caroline remained shy during the brief introduction, but you couldn’t have wiped the smile off of her face, not even if the Grinch himself showed up and stole all of her trappings on Christmas Eve.
There were a few tears, although superintendent Dr. Mike Reik later joked that he just had something in his eye at the time.
Vickie Diggs, secretary of the board, then stepped out from behind the dais at the front of the room and presented Caroline with her own gift. I’m sure she was very appreciative of the gesture, but there was no reason for Caroline to rip it open right then.
Instead, Caroline left the bag intact next to her chair, content at that point with the recognition.
“Caroline, I was so touched by your story,” Diggs said, “and I think you are the brightest little light I’ve ever seen, so I wanted to get you something special for taking care of everybody else.”
The next item on the agenda featured a man donating some sort of rebate based on district spending in a state program. I’m not real sure of the details, to be honest.
Didn’t seem that important after hearing Caroline’s story.
Most in the room agreed. Board president Sharon Sherwood almost forgot to keep the proceedings moving. Reik said, “I apologize you had to follow Caroline. That’s a tough act to follow.”
Very true. Caroline’s story stood out on a night otherwise filled with procedure and routine. Hopefully, her story reminds you a little bit about what makes the holidays special to you and your family.
Merry Christmas to all of The Citizen’s valued readers and advertisers.
Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @Citizen_Ross.