by Moira Cullings
PRAIRIE VILLAGE — Christmas will be much brighter this year for 145 kids and 33 families thanks to the generosity of St. Ann School here.
“We donate gifts to people who don’t get as much for Christmas, and we pack them up in red bags,” said St. Ann School sixth-grader Donnie Evangelidis.
“It feels good,” he said. “People like us can help people that are in need just by giving little things like toys.”
The donations are part of the Red Bag program, which has been a tradition at St. Ann for more than 35 years.
Gifts — including toys, clothing and basic necessities — were gathered by school families, wrapped, put in red bags and then loaded into a truck Nov. 6 by the students themselves.
They will go to children and families in need this Christmas.
For assistant principal Jessica Loveland, the school’s effort “means we are living our faith by reaching out to others, helping them in their time of need and praying for them as a community.”
“We hope our students learn that it is so much better to give than receive,” she added, “and [see] the power of coming together and supporting all of God’s children, especially during such an unprecedented holiday season.”
Families of the parish are grateful for the opportunity to give back year after year — and this time was even more special.
“Red Bag to our family is something that we really hold near and dear to our hearts,” said Michaela Pearce, who has two sons at St. Ann — one in preschool and one in second grade.
“Especially in a year like 2020, where so many families are feeling a deeper financial impact due to COVID-19, financial hardships seem to be putting a greater strain on so many,” she said.
Sixth-grader Courtney Reiser was excited to help other children have a special holiday.
“There’s basic stuff like T-shirts and things kids need,” she said. “Each kid makes a list of their favorite colors and favorite things, so you have an idea of what to get them.
“It’s [for] kids that don’t get a lot of presents and aren’t as blessed as we are.”
Tammy Laudan has been involved with the program for 20 years and said the enthusiasm of her fellow parishioners is moving.
“We just love this program,” she said.
Laudan also explained the program isn’t just for Catholic school families.
“Anybody can adopt a child,” she said. “There’s 33 families that have been taken care of [here]. That’s everything on their list — toiletries and food and gift cards.
“They’re really in need.”
Pearce said programs like Red Bag are why she and her husband sent their children to a Catholic school.
“Giving the kids the opportunity to understand the importance of giving back,” she said, “and especially giving back in our faith, really embodies everything that we want to teach our kids.
“It’s just an incredible program that teaches them to give unto others.”
To learn more about the Red Bag program, visit the website at: redbagskc.com.