Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

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


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 or (727) 445-4153. Follow @AyanaStewart.

Business owners give $13,000 to Oldsmar fifth-graders with a request: pay it forward 12/18/15 [Last modified: Friday, December 18, 2015 10:12pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review: Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald team up to cool down the Clearwater Jazz Holiday


    A cool breeze swept through Coachman Park Saturday night. Couple of them, actually.

    Kenny Loggins performed at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday on Oct. 21, 2017.
  2. No. 16 USF hangs on at Tulane, off to first 7-0 start


    NEW ORLEANS — After half a season of mismatches, USF found itself in a grudge match Saturday night.

    USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) runs for a touchdown against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH103
  3. Lightning buries Penguins (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Ryan Callahan spent a lot of time last season rehabilitating his injured hip alongside Steven Stamkos, who was rehabbing a knee after season-ending surgery. During those hours, Callahan noticed two things about Stamkos: his hunger and his excitement to return this season.

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek (29) advances the puck through the neutral zone during the first period of Saturday???‚??„?s (10/21/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  4. Spain planning to strip Catalonia of its autonomy


    BARCELONA, Spain — The escalating confrontation over Catalonia's independence drive took its most serious turn Saturday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced he would remove the leadership of the restive region and initiate a process of direct rule by the central government in Madrid.

    Demonstrators in Barcelona protest the decision to take control of Catalonia to derail the independence movement.
  5. Funeral held for soldier at center of political war of words (w/video)


    COOPER CITY — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

    The casket of Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Miami Gardens, who was killed in an ambush in Niger. is wheeled out after a viewing at the Christ The Rock Church, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017  in Cooper City, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP) FLMIH102