On the eighth day of surprises at James Sales Elementary School, the multipurpose room is electric, crackling with kid-powered energy.
One boy twirls with delight. Some kids leap high, while others prance like frisky colts.
I love them, says fifth-grader Yumin Lee, indicating her new pink Puma-brand sneakers with sparkly shoelaces. Theyre comfortable to walk in and I like the laces.
Day Eight is great! Principal Kristen Schroeder tells kids.
And it is, thanks to the surprise of the day: a new pair of sneakers for each of the Parkland schools 436 students.
Thursdays giveaway of donated shoes was part of a James Sales tradition called 12 Days of Hope, now in its third year.
During a dozen school days leading up to Wednesdays winter break, kids at the high-poverty school are treated to lessons in receiving with gratitude and giving with joy.
In addition to the sneakers, this years students have received socks, scarves and hand-made hats, many crocheted by volunteer Linda Melhoff of Puyallup.
Some days of hope arent about material gifts but about building a sense of community. One day, kids were invited to wear their PJs to school and share cookies and milk.
And on Pay It Forward Fridays during the 12 Days campaign, the kids learn the flip side of the holiday season the joy of giving.
On the first Friday, students made snack bags and wrote notes of encouragement for students at Pacific Lutheran University who were facing final exams. PLU, just down the road from James Sales, has a strong connection to the school. College students volunteer to mentor James Sales kids, and several staff members including Principal Schroeder are PLU alumni.
Last Friday, kids planned to make crafts to bring home to family members. Last year, they made ornaments for hospitalized children.
The 12 Days campaign, begun by Schroeder, earned James Sales nationwide recognition earlier this year. In January, the school was featured on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. The talk show host and Target Corp. presented James Sales with a $100,000 check to honor the school staff for the annual program.
The award brought some welcome changes to the school, including a new sound system in the multipurpose room, new playground equipment, a spruced-up library and more.
But teachers and others say the school also gained intangibles that money just cant buy. The Ellen show was a morale-booster that spurred kids and teachers to work hard.
They are capitalizing on the momentum, said Frank Hewins, superintendent of the Franklin Pierce School District.
The school was recently honored for its academic improvement. It is a 2012 School of Distinction, recognized for being one of the most improved schools in the state for raising test scores over the past five years.
Hewins, along with state Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn, attended the Thursday shoe giveaway. Both men pitched in with volunteers to help kids try on their new footwear.
Volunteer Lenette says helping at the school, where her daughter was once a student, is a big joy. I love working with the kids.
Teacher Lisa Green says the 12 Days of Hope has grown each year as word has spread.
At first it was us reaching out to friends and family, she says. But now its the whole community.
Schroeder talked to students about being gracious receivers. Teacher Jenna Serrs first-graders responded with a series of thank-yous in many languages Japanese, Italian, Norwegian, Spanish, even American Sign Language.
As students prepared to head back to their classrooms, fifth-grader Lindsay May clutched her bright blue Skechers in the box they came in.
Sure, the sneakers were nice. But the 12 Days of Hope were more than just a chance to get new stuff, she said.
I like it, Lindsay said, because it shows how much people care for us.
Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635
In Puyallup, more wishes granted
James Sales Elementary is just one local example of how educators go the extra mile for their students during the holidays.
At Walker High School in Puyallup, a new program called Winter Wishes is making the season bright for 120 students at the small alternative school.
Students and staff members make wishes early in the school year, and the staff tries to grant as many as they can throughout the month of December.
Some of the wishes are silly.
When Principal Alicia Nosworthy asked for a vacation, the wish-makers created a relaxing setting in her office, complete with palm tree and imaginary lake.
Some students have asked for school supplies or new shoes.
Junior Tamara Willis got her wish for something small but practical: a sandwich gift card.
Its something cool to do, she said of Winter Wishes. It makes me feel really good. It means a lot.
Walker wish-makers were able to make a big dream come true for one student. He had not seen his mom for several years; she has been living in another state while waiting for a life-saving transplant.
A Walker para-educator, Jodi Boyd, obtained a donation of round-trip plane tickets so the boy could visit his mom for Christmas.
Nosworthy said contributions for Walker kids came in from all over the community, as well as from staff members.
The staff and community were incredible, she said. I am still humbled by how much they support us.