Saving Christmas

Leilany Zarco, Staffer

As the holiday season is approaching, Senior Paige Showen is getting ready to host her annual charity event: Saving Christmas. This event was created as a way to bring back the holiday spirit during the pandemic while raising donations for families in need.

This year, on December 4 from 12-2pm at the South Middle school, families are once again invited to share their Christmas spirit with the community.

“I was inspired to do this event when I figured out that because of the pandemic, a lot of families were gonna be struggling during Christmas. There weren’t going to be Santas in a lot of the malls. It just felt like the world was missing its Christmas cheer, and that’s just about the saddest thing I’ve ever heard,” Paige said.

For Paige, the right spirit is essential for the holiday season. Piper Showen, Paige’s mom, agrees that in their household, Christmas is not to be celebrated lightly.

“No matter what is going on in our family (arguing, stress, etc.), when Christmas comes, we go all out. Traditions are important to our family and especially to Paige,” Piper said.

On the day of the event, families will be asked to enter through the cafeteria doors and drop off donations—this can be food, clothes, toys, or supplies. The families can then head in line to visit Santa or participate in the games and activities that will be taking place.

“Santa will be there! He wants to give you a winter wonderland experience and you will be helping him as well! Come help Santa help others, get a candy cane, say hi to some elves, and tell Santa what you want for Christmas while you’re there,” Piper says.

Saving Christmas will not only give the local community some holiday joy, but the event will also help give back to struggling families.

“The donations go to a women’s shelter in Kansas City, where there is a little store that the families can shop in. They can still feel like they are doing holiday shopping for their kids, except everything in the store is free,” Paige said.

This project was first executed in December 2020, six months into the Coronavirus pandemic. After reflecting on last year’s event, Paige has decided to tackle this year’s event in a new way.

“Last year it was more around the idea of the elves being quarantined, so they couldn’t help Santa as much (which is why Santa needed everyone’s help). This year she is taking a different approach to things, saying it is still rough for people trying to get back on their feet and keeping the spirit alive,” Piper said.

Last year’s event had its ups and downs, especially since it was the first time organizing and carrying out a project like this. However, Paige has acknowledged the challenges she faced and has turned the project into a learning experience.

“We collected like 3 different band loads of donations and we had a pretty good showing of kids. The only downside was it went for way too long and was extremely cold, considering it was early December and we had the event outside,” Paige said.
Although the project has been adapted to eliminate some of last year’s flaws, that does not mean that this year’s planning has been smooth-sailing. This year, Paige has had the burden of facing some new difficulties.

“There are a lot of challenges. One of them is just getting all of the information out to the people. Also, we have to think, ‘Do all the elementary schools know what’s going on? Did they watch the videos in class? Did they send out the flyers? It’s just a matter of figuring out all the logistics” Paige said.

Saving Christmas is a project that requires months of planning and district-wide attention, and Paige has risen to the challenge. While she has the support of her friends and family, Paige preferred to take care of the planning and execution herself.

“All I have really done to help Paige is given her the names of district people to contact for approval on the projects. Last year, I helped her print flyers and distribute them, and my husband helped create ‘Santa’s sleigh’. But other than that, it was all her. This year, I have not done anything to help so far,” Piper said.

For Paige, letting other people help is a struggle. As someone who is independent and a perfectionist, Paige finds it difficult to trust others to do work for her, and her high expectations led to immense stress last year. Luckily, Paige has since then learned to share the burden of this project’s heavy workload with people she trusts.

“She would not ask for help until I made her. This is too big of a thing to do alone. Thankfully, she did ask for help and got it from the awesome Ray-Pec NHS and Theater kids! This year she seems to be delegating a lot more and I think her stress level will be less,” Piper said.

At the most recent National Honor Society (NHS) meeting on November 9, Paige outlined what needs to be done in preparation for the event. Tasks include making and setting up decorations, creating promotional videos to send to the elementary schools, planning entertaining activities, and spreading the word.

With Paige being a current senior, there was some uncertainty as to what this project would look like in the upcoming years. However, Paige has been one step ahead; she has delegated three juniors to be her assistants.

“I’m having three shadows, and there’s a very careful to-do list that I’m going to share with them. I’d like for this to become a thing that people do in the future,” Paige said.

Paige’s hope is that they will learn the ins and outs of Saving Christmas and will carry on the tradition after Paige leaves for college. The three students working with Paige are Trey Doss, Mikayla Ernst, and Lexi Thomas.

“I really wanted to help because I know how much fun Christmas was for me whenever I was a little kid, and how seeing Santa was always the highlight of Christmas. I know Covid has affected so many families, so I want to ensure a safe version of Christmas so that younger kids carry on the tradition,” Ernst said.

Although Ernst has no involvement in last year’s event, she has been working alongside Paige and learning all the behind-the-scenes tips from Paige. This way, she will have a clear example of how to lead and carry on Saving Christmas in the future.

“We have a to-do list right now. We are working out dates and getting everything approved by the school and starting the core of the project,” Ernst said.

While receiving gifts during the holidays can be exciting, Paige finds that giving is equally as important. She believes that holiday joy should be shared with everyone, not just the people who can afford it.

“It’s a good opportunity to give back in, especially in a culture that is so ‘me, myself, and I,’” Paige said.

Not only does this project benefit families in need, but it also shows students that can make a difference in their community.

“It makes me think I did something right as a mom. She is a hard worker and I am so glad she gets to take that work ethic and use it to help make others happy,” Piper said.

As the preparations are being made and the day of the event is getting closer, Paige is balancing feelings of excitement, nervousness, and stress. But with the help of her community, Paige is ensuring that her guests on December 4th have a good time.

“Christmas needs saving, and we are going to be the ones to save it,” Paige said.