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400 wish lists filled as Kevin's children spend 40 years in schools in Manchester

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MANCHESTER, NJ – It began as an effort within a single school in the Manchester Township Schools to ensure that a child who had “never visited Santa” experienced the joy of receiving gifts at Christmas.

A simple act, by the boy’s teacher and Kevin Burger, then Principal of Whiting Elementary School, has become a unifying project in the years since, bringing together not only the families of the Manchester Schools, but the Manchester community as a whole .

The project — now known as Kevin’s Kids — celebrated its 40th year this Christmas, fulfilling wish lists for 400 children and their families, school district officials said. It was a record effort in a year filled with record levels of distress.

“A goal of Kevin’s Kids is not to collect generic gifts, but to bring the community together to fundraise and shop from specific gift wishlists submitted by every family we know will be in need during the holiday season. the district said. said.

It was 1983 when a first-grade student told his teacher, “Santa never comes to my house.” That child’s simple statement led to the first donation drive by Manchester Schools staff to help the boy and his family, along with a handful of other needy children, make sure their Christmas wishes come true.

Wish lists not only include toys and games, but also items that have a greater impact. Children have asked for work shoes after school for work, or bicycles to get to and from work. One of the gifts this year was driving lessons for a student.

In a recent year, a student who received his first computer through Kevin’s Kids attended Massacehusetts Institute of Technology.

“By meeting a child’s specific gift list, we’ve helped them achieve this,” officials said. l

Each child also receives a warm coat every year.

“This is one of the Manchester Schools’ largest fundraising efforts and it really shows what a great community and place Manchester is to live and raise a family,” said Alex George, director of student human resources services for the Manchester Township Schools, president of Kevin’s Children. “Kevin’s Kids is another reason I’m so proud to be a part of this school district and city. We truly are a family working together to care for the people in our community.”

And it’s a community effort, from the volunteers who make wish lists and run errands for the kids, to school bus drivers who pick up and transport gifts, to building and site workers who spend hours assembling toys and bikes.

“It’s a great feeling to be a part of it,” Manchester Township Council chairman Joan Brush said Monday night as she reflected on her help with this year’s effort. Brush has volunteered as a shopper at Kevin’s Kids for 35 years and said the response the volunteers are getting in the community has been heartwarming.

Senior communities, township corporations, and organizations provide the donations that pay for the groceries, and space for the school district to store gifts until distribution.

The gifts are wrapped on Saturday by Manchester Schools staff in a marathon wrapping session and the gifts are anonymously distributed to families in time for Christmas.