The only thing random about this event was the chance meeting between Rima Bandeli and Elyse Zucker.
Bandeli, a guidance counselor at Paterson Public School 12, met Zucker when the latter came in to meet with her about completing her school counseling internship at PS 12. The conversation eventually led Zucker to ask if her son could do something special for the middle school children at PS 12.
Jeremy Zucker, then a sophomore at Ramapo High School, had been interested in completing a community service project.
The Christmas season has always been about the younger students at PS 12. Children up to grade 4 meet with Santa for photos and a gift, courtesy of Toys for Tots.
Fifth graders are visited by St. Nick along with a Fair Lawn fire fighter.
The students in grades 6-8 did not have a special celebration of any kind, until last year, when PS 12 students were fortunate enough to have a benefactor who thought it was important for them to feel the holiday spirit and receive a gift.
In December, 2011, Jeremy stepped up to the challenge and provided PS 12 students with close to $1,500 in gift cards. He solicited his friends, family, and neighbors for donations. Jeremy came the school personally to hand out the cards, the amounts of which ranged from $10-50.
With no provocation from our school, Jeremy, now a junior, decided he wanted to take on the project this year as well.
He teamed up with Flames of Giving, a Wayne-based charity founded by Sari Gross. Jeremy collected 168 gifts cards, worth more than $3,000, for the students.
His act inspired the school to do more even for these students. Bandeli and Maria Francisco, a physical education teacher, organized a fundraising campaign.
Ms. Verta, a new teacher, called in a favor from a friend and got a donation from a major magazine for all the girls.
A dance and a movie night were held to raise money for more gifts.
On Dec. 21, 2012, a surprise celebration was held for all the middle school students.
Jeremy and his mother attended once again to be a part of the gift distribution, speaking to the students to explain why he wanted to be a part of this event.
He told the students that he felt it was important that everyone get something for Christmas and that he wanted to help. Jeremy is a great example to our students showing them that even as a child they can make a difference in other people’s lives.
Our students were very grateful to Jeremy for his generous act of kindness.
Thanks to the inspiration from Jeremy, we look forward to continuing this celebration yearly.
The above article was submitted by Rima Bandeli, guidance counselor at Paterson Public School 12.
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