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Sharing the gift of giving

Left to right, Eighth grade English teacher Amanda Lindquist and students Katlyn Patterson, Cierra Paxton and Trevor Bickford debate which gifts to purchase for 19 children involved in the Mentor Superior program during their “Gift of Giving” shopping spree Tuesday at Wal-Mart of Superior. Maria Lockwood

Armed with $340 and their own childhood memories, eighth-graders Cierra Paxton and Katlyn Patterson set out to brighten Christmas for 19 children in the Mentor Superior program this year.

Their trek Tuesday took the Superior Middle School students to Walmart of Superior with English teacher Amanda Lindquist and classmate Trevor Bickford, who was pulled in to provide a male perspective.

After shopping at Dollar Tree, they had $229 to spend and half an hour to spend it in.

There was no wish list to follow, just names and ages. The four went down the list and traveled the aisles, looking for presents that would make an impact — a board game to play with the family, toys that invited creative play, things they enjoyed as kids.

When they got to the outdoor toys section, Paxton was drawn to a pile of red and blue rectangular snow brick makers.

"We had these things in fifth grade and I loved them," she said.

"I know, they're fun," Patterson said.

They opted for one per family.

The cart filled quickly. They added an electronic cash register, doctor's kit, pair of Lego sets and more while Lindquist kept track of the purchases on her cell phone's calculator.

"Legos are fun," Bickford said. "I have a huge box and I play with them."

The students were distracted by water slide and squish toys, adding a number of them to the cart after testing them out.

The game Head Bandz caught their eye, and the four started to reminisced about playing Life and Mousetrap when they were younger. There was a brief discussion over which version of the Pie Face! game would be the best value, and a Rubik's Cube secret was shared.

"I opened up the box and never messed with it so it looks like I actually did it," Paxton said.

They settled on hair ties and chocolate for the teens on the list, and made sure none of the gifts needed batteries before checking out.

The Mentor Superior party is one of the philanthropy efforts eighth-graders are working on this school year. They also aim to provide Sweet Cases to local children going into foster care, work with the Humane Society of Douglas County and provide alternative seating or standing desks for the classroom.

Both Paxton and Patterson were drawn to the "Gift of Giving" project. Initially, they wanted to send presents to the Children's Hospital.

"But me and Katlyn, we kind of wanted to see the kids open up the presents and see their faces," Paxton said.

They had to write a script and call Mentor Superior program coordinator Salisha Hochstetler to pitch the idea.

"I was so nervous," Paxton said.

The eighth graders raised money for the shopping spree through a hat day at the middle school and Gofundme site. Teachers chipped in extra Black Friday finds, as well.

The students wrapped their gifts during class this week and plan to hand them out at a party today at Zion Lutheran Church.