Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Education

Business owners give $13,000 to Oldsmar fifth-graders with a request: pay it forward

OLDSMAR

Oldsmar Elementary principal Michael Feeney delivered the good news to his fifth-graders earlier this month.

Each student would receive $150 in cash gift cards for the holidays.

To a kid that age, he said, $150 sounds like $1 million.

"A lot of them went, 'What's the catch?' "

The catch: $100 had to be spent on other people.

Feeney said he hoped at least a few students would take the challenge seriously. What happened next surprised him.

One student bought Subway gift cards and handed them out to homeless people.

Another gave money to a cousin who needed help paying for medication.

A girl gave her money to charity, including the $50 meant for herself.

Others spent the $100 on gifts for relatives, and one family was able to buy a Christmas tree.

"They impressed me with their ability to give," the principal said.

•••

It started back in September. Local business owner John Sanders came to Feeney and said he and his wife of 47 years, Joyce, wanted to teach students about the power of giving.

He and the principal brainstormed and came up with a plan.

John first planned to give students money to buy gifts for their families but decided to give extra to each student so they could shop for themselves. He also gave local stores a heads up: If a 10-year-old walks in, treat him or her like a real customer.

The Sanderses own Jamson Laboratories, a chemical manufacturing company based in Oldsmar. They started to give away money and gifts around Christmas in the 1980s as the company took off.

The couple made national news in November 2014 after paying off layaway balances for dozens of residents at the Oldsmar Walmart.

With 87 fifth-grade students at Oldsmar Elementary, Sanders and his wife spent a little more than $13,000.

Oldsmar Cares, a nonprofit that provides food, clothing and financial aid to people in need, received several donations from students.

Chairwoman Brenda Gaulin said any donation near the holidays has a big impact on the volunteer-run charity.

One of the students who donated told his mother he wanted to help people who needed it, she said.

"It's such a nice thing to see."

•••

Dozens of fifth-graders sat in the Oldsmar Elementary media center Friday, fidgeting as they waited for an assembly to start.

The room fell silent as a video montage of students started to play — a thank you to the Sanderses.

"You've helped so many people," said one student.

"You've helped so many families," said the next.

"You've helped me," said another.

Alicea Rhinehart, 10, bought Christmas gifts for her parents, grandparents, aunts and cousins and donated to Toys for Tots. She used the $50 gift to get her ears pierced.

"I feel really happy because I have the chance to give back," she said.

Other children shared stories during the assembly about how the money changed their lives.

Some students and teachers started to tear up. So did Joyce Sanders.

"I was just overwhelmed," she said afterward. "I've received more than what we gave."

Contact Ayana Stewart at [email protected] or (727) 445-4153. Follow @AyanaStewart.

   
Comments
Sheriff: Weeki Wachee High student posted fake school shooting threat

Sheriff: Weeki Wachee High student posted fake school shooting threat

WEEKI WACHEE — A 16-year-old was arrested Tuesday on allegations that she created a fake social media post threatening to shoot students at Weeki Wachee High School, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies said the 16-year-old told...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District and its teachers’ union moved closer to resolving their salary dispute during Monday’s negotiating session — but stopped short of reaching an agreement.The teachers, who have spent this school year work...
Published: 05/21/18
Updated: 05/22/18
Parents score victory in effort to make travel safer for Westchase students

Parents score victory in effort to make travel safer for Westchase students

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school leaders call it courtesy busing, but to Lauren Hawkins it’s more a matter of life and death.More students living close to their schools in the Westchase community used the Hillsborough school district’s courtesy bus...
Published: 05/21/18
Eckerd College hosts a royal celebration of its own

Eckerd College hosts a royal celebration of its own

A day after England’s royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, St. Petersburg hosted a royal celebration of its own. Among the estimated 500 graduates to receive an Eckerd College diploma at Sunday’s graduation ceremony held...
Published: 05/20/18
Updated: 05/21/18

Hooper: SEL lends a solution to the increasingly toxic world of kids

An incident recently arose between students at Jesuit High School and Academy of the Holy Names that involved allegations of cyberbullying, homophobia, misogyny and assault.It only involved a fraction of the students at two of Tampa’s most prestigiou...
Published: 05/19/18
Updated: 05/22/18
At vigil, another school mourns: ‘It is hope in the face of tragedy that brings us together today.’

At vigil, another school mourns: ‘It is hope in the face of tragedy that brings us together today.’

SANTA FE, Texas - They gathered here by the dozens Friday evening, wearing their school colors, T-shirts that said "Texas Tough," while huddling under the shade of a gaggle of pine trees, not 11 hours after the first shots were fired.They came to pra...
Published: 05/19/18
‘I always felt it would eventually happen here’: A Santa Fe High School survivor’s reaction to the shooting

‘I always felt it would eventually happen here’: A Santa Fe High School survivor’s reaction to the shooting

Paige Curry tried to keep calm Friday morning as a gunman tore through her Santa Fe High School, eventually killing 10 people and injuring another 10. The 17-year-old watched as a girl nearby panicked. Curry, herself terrified, considered running out...
Published: 05/19/18
Class of 2018: Meet the valedictorians and salutatorians for Pinellas private high schools

Class of 2018: Meet the valedictorians and salutatorians for Pinellas private high schools

Before they could get away, we asked the top graduates at Pinellas County’s private schools to write a Twitter-length paragraph about what’s on their mind. We suggested they reflect on the past or the future, or talk about the people who helped them ...
Published: 05/18/18
Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

TAMPA — For those who fear there is no hope, or help, or heart left in this world, there is the story of Anita Morgan.There are any number of life-wrenching places to begin …In the middle of the night, in the back of a police car, cruising over the b...
Published: 05/18/18
Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

TAMPA — For those who fear there is no hope, or help, or heart left in this world, there is the story of Anita Morgan.There are any number of life-wrenching places to begin …In the middle of the night, in the back of a police car, cruising over the b...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18