Underprivileged Children Benefit from CCHS’s Spirit of Giving Underprivileged Children Benefit from CCHS’s Spirit of Giving
BY SYDNEY ALTMAN The season of giving has taken over Cooper City High School’s Student Government Association (SGA) as they organize their annual Adopt-a-Child... Underprivileged Children Benefit from CCHS’s Spirit of Giving

Adopt-a-Child began at CCHS 21 years ago. This year, the school adopted 30 underprivileged children and collected presents to give them a special Christmas. Photo Credit: ALEXANDRA MADAR


The season of giving has taken over Cooper City High School’s Student Government Association (SGA) as they organize their annual Adopt-a-Child event that donates gifts to underprivileged children.

Adopt-a-Child was organized 21 years ago by Dr. Martha Craine.  She “adopted” three children from the Sexual Assault Treatment Center (SATC), providing the unfortunate children with gifts and toys to make their Christmas special. SGA took over the project four years later.  As the years continue on, SGA adopts more and more children from the center to assist.  This year proved to be record breaking, with 37 children being adopted.

The purpose of the event is simple.  The children from the center compile a list of toys, clothes, movies, electronics, etc. that they want Santa to bring them.  Once SGA gets the list of children that are participating, teachers at CCHS volunteer to “adopt” a child and then students raise money to ultimately purchase gifts on the child’s wish-list.  When all of the collections are complete, SGA has the responsibility to put a holiday party together for the children and their families.

“At the center, the counselors determine which kids are most in need,” senior and event organizer Natalie Riusech said.  “Usually they assess their family income, but it’s all kept private.”

In order to spread more awareness about the SATC and to assist in collecting for the 37 children, Riusech enlisted the help of seven other high schools including Coral Springs, Stoneman Douglas, West Broward, and Flanigan.  The supporting high schools adopted one child each, whereas CCHS adopted 30 children and dispersed them among the teachers.

“A lot of these kids have never even had a Christmas before, and when you tell them that Santa’s coming and that they’re getting everything on their wish list, some of them don’t even believe it,” Riusech said.  “When we host this party every year, they’re really surprised and it’s very touching.  It’s probably the biggest event of their childhood.”

The planning for the event began in April, where a date was set and companies were called in order to gain the donations necessary to ensure no child is left out.  Each year, a senior is selected to lead the project and after years of working the event and volunteering at the SATC, Riusech was happy to be chosen.

To ensure effective organization with an event this big, six committees were established, including child distribution, gift wrapping, decorations, dinner, stocking stuffers, and donations.  The committees are comprised of leadership students and SGA members.  DECA assists in providing gift wrap and NHS is helping with food donations for the dinner.

After months of planning, the event will finally be held, on December 15, 2010.  This is where the children and their families have dinner and celebrate the holidays.  Due to the outstanding number of participants, two dinner times are taking place, the first one at 5:00 p.m. and the second is at 7:00 p.m.  At the dinner, Cooper City Commissioner Jamie Curran dresses up as Santa Claus to bring happiness to the already joyful celebration.  Santa delivers the gifts to the children individually.

“[Jamie] gets all decked out in his Santa suit and the kids get very excited,” Riusech said.  “Honestly, their favorite part is just seeing Jamie.”

When Santa comes, the children open their stocking gifts as a group, but in order to get their donated items, the children and their families must all be separated so that SGA can ensure that gifts are distributed evenly.  For those who came up short, donations from stores such as Walmart and Toys R Us help SGA reach their goal of guaranteeing that all of the children have a plentiful holiday.  Overall, it is one of the favorite events SGA holds all year.

“It’s touching [to see the kids get their gifts],” Riusech said.  “When you see them at first, you’re heartbroken, but you’re so excited because they absolutely love it.  It’s the best project that we do and truly the best part of the year.”