As part of their Leaders of Tomorrow Program, students from First Steps and Beyond School in Red Deer recently donated sleepers, socks and handmade quilts to the Neonatal unit at the Red Deer Regional Hospital. Mark Weber/Red Deer Express

Local youngsters lend a helping hand to the Red Deer Hospital

First Steps and Beyond School students donate to Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

It’s never too early to learn about the joy of giving.

Recently, a group of youngsters from the First Steps and Beyond School in Red Deer, through their Leaders of Tomorrow program, gathered 45 sleepers, 65 pairs of socks and 20 handmade quilts for a special donation to the Neonatal unit at the Red Deer Regional Hospital.

The small school of 40 students regularly carries out random acts of kindness and fundraising efforts throughout the community, said Teacher Tamara Stasyk.

“The Leaders of Tomorrow Program teaches the students a sense of community, and to develop a deeper understanding about the needs of others,” she explained.

Past beneficiaries of the youngsters’ kindness include the food, treats, money and toys for the SPCA, a food bank drive, as well as a collection of mittens, toques and socks for the homeless, she said. “We try to do this at least twice a year.”

Besides serving as a means to really make a difference in the community, it’s always a fun venture for the students as well.

The youngsters were able to tour the local SPCA when they delivered their donations, and for the food bank drive, they built a ‘volcano’ of food donations because at the time, they were learning about dinosaurs.

“We also measured out how many mittens, toques and scarves we could gather for the homeless, and I think it ended up being about 75 ft. of items,” she said with a smile. Those items went to local women’s and youth shelters.

Stasyk, who has been teaching at First Steps and Beyond for seven years now, said ultimately it’s all about showing the kids the importance of giving back.

“We have what we need here, but we see people in the community (for example) who don’t have warm clothing – so how can we help them?”

First Steps and Beyond opened in 2010.

According to the web site, staff work to give students the structure, attention and learning styles they need to succeed by capping the number of students per class, teaching life skills and going above and beyond the traditional school system’s curriculum.

“We believe that a proper education early on will stay with our children throughout their lives and provide them with the life skills they need to be successful.”

For Stasyk, working with such an engaging group is always fulfilling.

“Every day is different. And everyday we have ‘a ha’ moments where the light goes on and the look on their faces – they are always so excited and so energetic,” he said. “I love being here. Everyday is a new day. I love teaching them and learning from them as well.”

For now, the youngsters are thinking ahead to the next organization they’d like to help.

“We are going to brainstorm and figure out where the kids are going to fundraise for next,” said Stasyk. “We try to pick somewhere different every time.”

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