Students give the gift of hope and more

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Northside third-grader Jordan LaScala and students in Pernille Ripp's fifth-grade class at West Middleton brought some holiday cheer to two area families and were honored in the process.

The students wrote letters that were published in Sunday's Wisconsin State Journal as part of the Helping Hands project.

LaScala wrote about a farming family that has been impacted by cancer.

"The letter she wrote was fabulous,'' said her teacher, Tracy Hellenbrand.

Hellenbrand said she has often had her students participate in the Helping Hands project over the years. The family LaScala wrote about will receive $200 to hep them during this holiday season, Hellenbrand said.

"I feel it is important to show children they can make a difference,'' Hellenbrand said. "This is what the holidays are about.''

LaScala, who said writing is her favorite subject, was thrilled to particpate.

"It feels so good to help,'' she said. "I was jumping up and down when Mr. Craney told me.''

Ripp said 20 of her students wrote about one family. Their letter read:

I know this girl whose family could use some help. She has a worn-out winter coat and not much holiday cheer. If she were to get the money, I think her family would use it to get holiday gifts and try to afford a different place to live.

"I am very proud of all of the students that wrote letters,'' Ripp said.

In all, hundreds of area students wrote letters and 26 families received a helping hand through the project. The program is funded by Youth Services Inc., the Wisconsin State Journal’s charitable arm. The families received a gift card, check or other assistance.