The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

December 26, 2013

GRA students find that giving is the true holiday spirit


For the Star Beacon

AUSTINBURG TOWNSHIP — Philanthropy is a desire to help humankind. Well, to the people of Grand River Academy, it’s not just another word. It’s a way of life. Whether it’s blood donations, decorating Christmas trees at the local store, handing out presents to the patients in the pediatric wing of the local hospitals, or even adopting families through the HALO program, the community at GRA believes in the power of sharing.

The students of Grand River Academy may come from exotic places like China, Brazil, Togo, Russia and South Korea, or simple American homes in Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, Indiana and California, but despite all of the diverse origins of the students, one belief, one ideal, is common in every single heart. The ubiquitous notion that helping others truly is the greatest deed one can do for fellow humans.

Grand River’s philanthropic adventure begins a quarter mile down the road, at Shannon’s Mini Mart. It is a local mini grocery store that sells everything from tooth brushes to postage stamps. Owner Shawn Shannon begins the benevolent endeavor by purchasing trees for families in the community. In these Christmas trees outside the store you could find six GRA students huddled around a strand of fluorescent lights in the freezing weather. Despite the cold temperatures, there stood seven flawlessly decorated spruces, each one twinkling with lights illuminating the falling snow. A smile on each one of the volunteers could be seen underneath the scarfs and jackets. Walking back to campus, the last thing the boys were feeling was the cold, with heads held high and warm hearts. The holiday spirit was awakened.

As the students continue to work toward the holidays, they spend evenings and weekends traveling to Ashtabula County Medical Center. Presents in hand, a group of students enters the hospital with the hopes of giving some smiles and happiness to the children in the pediatric ward. One of the patients they met was Emily, a 5-year-old girl, lying in a hospital bed with her mother and father close by. When handed a present, coloring book and crayons, the smile radiating from her face could light up a city

“It’s not about the presents we open, but about opening our hearts to the needs in a community, specifically to the children who have been sick during this special time of year,” said Angela Thomas, international student adviser.

Though the students at Grand River Academy always attempt to open their hearts to others within their school community, this time of year brings opportunities for the students to truly show compassion toward their fellow humans.