As the Gem State Academy bus pulled up in front of the school, academy students streamed from the cafeteria with a welcoming wave of enthusiasm for more than 30 children from the community. As children came off the bus, they were paired with academy students who had signed up to sponsor them. “The sign-up sheet filled in fast, as this has become an anticipated tradition,” said Kristy Blevins, student association president.
This Christmas marked 30 years of this academy tradition of helping children from the community have a brighter Christmas. It started in 1972 with a phone call from then student association sponsor Ray Blue. Loretta Nichols from the Southwest Department of Health agreed to work with the school to identify children for sponsorship who might not otherwise have much of a Christmas. Gem State Academy students and their families have been sponsoring children ever since thanks to Nichols. “The joy on the faces of the little ones, as Santa comes and they open gifts with their sponsor students, is what Christmas is really all about, said Jan Fautheree, Bible teacher and student association sponsor.” While more than 1,500 children have been given a brighter Christmas over the years through this annual party, Gem State students and their families have also learned it is more blessed to give than receive.