The gift of giving: letters to Santa

Calli Haramaras, staff writer

“Dear Santa, I am in fourth grade, I am nine years old, I go to Rogers School. Can I get a basketball please, I want one because my brother has one and he doesn’t let me play with it. If it’s a low price can I get an icebreaker, the watermelon kind? Also can I get a toy for my baby cousin that is a girl and one year old?”

This letter is from a student at Philip Rogers Elementary School in Chicago. He wrote to Santa through the program Letters to Santa.

Letters to Santa is a charity that South clubs and classes participate in every winter alongside Direct Effect Charities, a nonprofit organization that aids children and families living in poverty in Chicago.

Hellenic Club started the charity at South five to six years ago. Other clubs and activities that participate include Key Club, Poms, Erika’s Lighthouse and PE Leaders.

Students from South can participate through clubs, classes or individually to receive a “letter to Santa” from students, grades kindergarten through eighth, at Philip Rogers, living under the poverty level. Participants are required to spend  $25 to $30 on their gift but can split the cost with others if they desire.

“The goal of Letters to Santa all comes down to just giving back to the community and being able to take time out of your day in order to appreciate the art of giving and not always receiving,” Stephanie Vinieratos, Hellenic Club president, said.

According to Lucinda Pouplikollas, Hellenic Club sponsor, the program originally started with only 100 letters, but now, over 800 letters are being distributed.

Junior Olivia Pullano participated through PE leaders for the first time this year. According to Pullano, her child asked for Transformers toys in his letter to Santa.

“It really means a lot to these kids to open a present and have a gift all to themselves,” Pullano said. “I’ll just be really happy knowing that I made someone’s day by giving them a Christmas gift that they normally wouldn’t get.”

Along with Pullano, Whitney Orlow, assessment coordinator at Philip Rogers, agrees that it is wonderful that the children can receive such nice gifts.

“One year, a kindergarten girl asked for a snow globe,” Orlow said. “She ended up getting two! She was speechless. It is a much different experience to ask for a gift and receive exactly what you wanted from a total stranger.”

Pouplikollas expressed her take on charity.

“Even if you have a lot or a little, there’s always room to give,” Pouplikollas said.