"Gift of Giving – Students have it all wrapped up"

For more than 10 years, teacher Cathy Mayo has guided her students in a holiday project to make and sell wrapping paper and then donate the proceeds to Globe Santa and other charities that benefit children. What makes Mayo’s story a little different is that students at the Cotting School in Lexington have a broad spectrum of mild to severe communications and learning disabilities, physical challenges, and complex medical conditions. But their differences don’t hold them back from helping other children. “Our kids have disabilities and are often the recipients of other people’s generosity, such as tickets to sporting events and other special treats,” Mayo explains, “but I want them to understand that they, too, can give and that some people have needs that are greater than theirs.”

With Christmas music playing, the children, most of them between ages 7 and 12, joined their teacher and other helpers on recent afternoons to unfurl large rolls of classroom paper and decorate them with stamps shaped like snowflakes, trees, candy canes, and Stars of David. Some children were on the ground stamping paper, while those with physical limitations sat around long tables that had been set up for the project and, when necessary, used adapted equipment and some hand-over- hand help. Some are laughing, others are singing, and all are working hard. “We want our kids to know that they can help, that they can make a contribution,” Mayo says. “I tell them that not every child asks for the latest Wii game; some kids need warm coats and are worried about their parent finding a job.”

That’s exactly the type of child Globe Santa helps, too. For more than 50 years. Globe Santa has provided holiday gifts for needy children. In recent years, Globe Santa has received more than $1 million in contributions annually. Last Christmas brought happiness for 29,098 families and 57,079 children in 167 Eastern Massachusetts communities. This year, because of the recession, the number of families seeking help is much greater than last year. That is why Globe Santa is so thankful that he has “Santa Friends” like the students at the Cotting School, who again this year are doing their part to make Christmas brighter for thousands of other children through their hard work and the money they raise for Globe Santa.

The wrapping paper project at Cotting started small, with one design and one color paper. “A couple of teachers were kicking around ideas about what the kids could do to help other kids,” Mayo said. Now families and friends of the Cotting School place orders for the design and color they want; the wrapping paper has become a school tradition and is so popular that families are limited to six rolls. The rolls cost $4 each and every penny is donated to Globe Santa and Wings of Hope, a school for abandoned children with disabilities in Haiti that has become Cotting’s “sister school.” Many Cotting School children have pen pals at Wings of Hope. Cotting School students have raised more than $400 so far this year and will continue to fill orders through next week. Cotting School wrapping paper is not available to the general public. Karen Stott of Plymouth says her three children who attend Cotting have enjoyed working on the wrapping paper and look forward to it every year. “They make a connection with the holiday that it is about sharing and giving that is very concrete,” she says. “They learn that they can make a contribution, they can make a difference.”

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