TONAWANDA — Students at Cardinal O'Hara High School in Tonawanda take to heart, "What It Means to Be a Franciscan," a phrase generated by the school's Franciscan philosophy.
Nowhere does the phrase have more meaning than with members of the Good Samaritan Club. These students and their moderator, Jeanne Wantz, do community projects throughout the year - from dressing in costume to visit a senior apartment complex on Halloween to a Coats for Kids drive, to attending the annual prom for seniors to the most ambitious, the Christmas Adopt-a-Family gift project.
Last year, the students solicited gifts for three families, one of which suffered a fire, which destroyed much of their home. In addition to gifts of clothing and toys, the students hosted three dress down day fundraisers, which garnered enough funds to purchase a new washer and dryer.
"It was a fun project and I'm looking forward to this year," said Chris Richards, a senior. "I enjoyed seeing the joy on the faces of family members when we gave out the gifts - especially the washer and dryer."
Aly DeMarco, also a senior, said that, "even though the project was a lot of fun, it made us feel good to give back."
"In all, we took care of 17 people," Wantz said. "The students did the work, collecting donated items, planning fundraisers, then sorting, wrapping, filling the van for delivery - the real spirit of Christmas."
This year's plans are already underway with a Giving Tree in the school foyer with names and lists attached and three adopt-a-family dress down days are set.
In addition to the student community outreach this season, Cardinal O'Hara High School will continue one of its longest running traditions with a Greccio reenactment and Christmas concert Wednesday, Dec. 16, at 6:30 p.m.
The O'Hara freshman class will reenact St. Francis of Assisi's pageant for the birth of Jesus Christ, a Franciscan tradition.
The school's concert band, wind ensemble, chorus and song corps will also perform their annual concert of holiday favorites in the performing arts center immediately following the Greccio reenactment. For the third year in a row, alumni who were part of the music program during their time at O'Hara have been invited to join the song corps or band to perform as part of the finale
St. Francis of Assisi, who loved to dramatize the Gospel, set up the first Christmas crib on Mount Greccio in 1223 to visually re-create the Bethlehem experience in a cave among the hills in Central Italy. St. Francis led the people of Greccio in procession with their various farm animals to a grotto where the saint made the Christmas Liturgy a dramatic celebration.
There are three scenes in the presentation - The Annunciation, The Birth of Jesus and The Visit of the Magi. The performance takes place in the school courtyard.
Prior to the show, the Fine Arts Department will host a spaghetti dinner fundraiser in the student dining room. Eat-in or take-out is available and tickets can be purchased at the O'Hara main office or call 716-695-2600.
All are invited.
Anyone interested in donating toys, new items or money to the Good Samaritan Club collection is asked to stop by the school office at 39 O'Hara Road, Town of Tonawanda or call the school at 716-695-2600. For more information about the Greccio reenactment or spaghetti dinner contact Renee Orr at 716-695-2600, ext. 312, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.