PARMA, Ohio — Northeast Ohioans have stepped up to help make some holiday magic for kids at Summit Academy in Parma.
News 5 first reported on Tuesday that a Grinch broke into an SUV, stealing toys meant for students and their families, part of the school’s holiday shop.
RELATED: Hundreds of toys, gifts stolen from SUV were for students at Summit Academy in Parma
As of Wednesday, the school had received well over $2,000 in donations to help make sure these students are able to have a great holiday.
“In the past 24 hours, our phones have been ringing off the hook,” said Saree Doyle, assistant director at the school. “We’ve had strangers and community members coming in off the street, offering to bring us toys, monetary donations, asking if there’s anything they can do to help.”
What the donations will go toward
The donations will be used to fund the school’s holiday shop, which allows students to buy gifts for themselves and their families at low prices, ranging from $1 to $5, and now that so many donations have come in, the school said the extra donations will be used in a variety of ways, including special events and field trips for the students.
“Our students have prom, they have graduation, every year we hold a holiday feast for Thanksgiving,” Doyle said, noting that there are also incentives for students such as video games and other opportunities to experience their community.
According to Summit Academies, two thirds of the students at Summit Academy in Parma have special needs and many of the other students are those students’ siblings. All students at the school receive free breakfast and lunch, which the school said highlights financial struggles many families face and the need for the low-cost holiday shop.
“Some of them don’t have shoes and coats and stuff to wear to school,” said Lisa Nuti, a parent volunteer who is also head of the parent teacher organization. “And just watching all these extra things come in the door that we know that a lot of their parents or families wouldn’t be able to get for them, that they’ll get that little extra this year, it really means a lot.”
What happened since Tuesday
Nuti’s SUV was the one that was burglarized Tuesday and she said the fact that the school’s holiday shop can continue means a lot.
“This is just completely overwhelming for me to have this much generosity,” Nuti said.
Nuti said her phone had been ringing nonstop, with calls from former colleagues and friends as well as complete strangers.
“We know that this year will be the year that they will always remember,” Nuti said of the students.
Nuti said it’s important for the kids to have a sense of accomplishment when they bring a few dollars in to buy gifts at the holiday shop.
“These kids don’t always have 50 cents or a dollar or two dollars to make that special gift,” Nuti said. “It is such a big deal to them. If you take that away from them, they feel like someone’s giving it to them. This makes it feel like they earned these presents to give it to someone.”
Santa steps in
In addition to the gifts they can buy at low cost for their family members, there will also be gifts given to the kids for free, since there have been so many donations.
“When I found out about what happened, I knew Santa had to step in,” Daniel Wittig said.
Wittig, who lives in Old Brooklyn, said his son attended Summit Academy for years.
“I don’t like what happened, but it did, and we wanted to make sure that all the children here were taken care of,” Wittig said.
With the hundreds of dollars in donations Wittig has collected, “Santa” will be at school on Friday to give every child a gift.
“I will make sure that everybody has something special for them, for their families to make sure it’s a very joyous, joyous Christmas for one and all, for everybody,” Santa said.
Wittig said he is happy the community is pitching in to help everyone have a good holiday.
“Santa relies on the love and graciousness of everybody to make sure that family is family, community stands together, that we all love one another and enjoy such a special time,” Wittig said.
Donations from all over
Other people donated Wednesday to make sure students would have a great holiday.
Maureen Dabbieri, who owns an insurance agency in Medina, spoke with coworkers, neighbors and friends and ultimately rounded up $700 to donate.
“I didn’t have much growing up, and if it wasn’t for people helping out, we wouldn’t have had Christmases,” Dabbieri said. “So any time I can help, myself, I always want to make someone’s Christmas brighter.”
She added that her own niece loves going to a Santa shop to pick out gifts for others and that she is sure the students at Summit Academy feel the same way.
“It’s not really about the toys, it’s the excitement of them picking them out, and I understand they pick them out for their family too,” Dabbieri said.
Jené Gonzalez, who lives in Parma, stopped by the school to drop off a donation on Wednesday and ended up staying to help out.
“I saw that they needed help wrapping and I got to be an elf, so it’s been really fun,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez described the pride with which students select and pay for their gifts to family members.
“Just these little dollar items that, to them, they’re holding gold and they’re giving this amazing gift,” Gonzalez said.
The experience adds new meaning to the phrase “giving from the heart” for her.
“It’s beautiful,” Gonzalez said. “It’s honestly been a huge blessing to even be here.”
Doyle said there were no words that could express the gratitude the staff members, students and families have for those who have donated.
“Thank you so much for everyone for their generosity and their support and our students really just, they’re speechless,” Doyle said. “They’re overwhelmed just like the staff here, and we can’t thank everyone enough for all their continued support.”
How to donate
Anyone interested in making a donation can go to this link and click on the button that says “CLICK HERE TO DONATE.” Find the correct school (Parma) and select “1” in the drop-down menu.
In the box to the right of the school name, put the amount you would like to donate, then scroll to the bottom and fill out the form with your first and last name and address.
Click continue to see an order preview, which gives a summary of your donation, and then click “CONTINUE TO PAYMENT” to fill out payment information. Be sure to check the boxes under “I ACKNOWLEDGE THAT.”