James River Day School

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Three Ways of Giving Thanks

Leadership includes service, and gratitude is a key to happiness. These are truths we want our students to learn. As we teach our students about being good citizens and leaders, we try to model the behaviors we want them to have. Then we give them room to show what they've learned. As part of this, the school celebrates and gives thanks with three separate, yet very connected, events.
The Thursday before Thanksgiving break begins, we have the Thankful Hearts Feast. We gather our families and friends for a lavish meal with all the traditional trimmings. This year, we hosted over 540 people in two seatings. To help decorate, the students made special placements depicting the things for which they are grateful, and with the addition of lots of tables, tablecloths, and harvest-themed centerpieces, our field house is turned into a banquet hall. Many thanks for the planning of this marvelous meal go to our Thankful Hearts Feast co-chairs, Hollis Capshaw and Alex Vaughan, and to our Cardinal Café crew for the delicious feast!
During the meal, our Middle School Chorus, Third/Fourth Grade Chorus, and our kindergarten/first grade students sang gratitude-themed songs for our entertainment. Yet, Thankful Hearts isn't just about eating a delicious meal and having a good time, though that is wonderful. We also announce the total number of cans donated in our annual Thankful Hearts Canned Food Drive, and we invite representatives of the five food pantries/food banks benefiting from the food drive to join us for the Thankful Hearts Feast.
About a week before we break for the Thanksgiving holiday each year, we kick off the food drive. Parent volunteers and students help gather and count the food as it comes in each morning during the drive. This year, our goal was 8,000 cans. We smashed through that goal by gathering over 8,750 cans! Thank you, everyone, for your donations! Lynchburg Daily Bread, the Salvation Army, Rivermont Area Emergency Food Pantry, Holy Cross Food Bank, and the First Baptist Church of Monroe Food Bank each receive a part of the food gathered. At the Thankful Hearts Feast, their representatives spoke of the difference the food makes in the lives of those assisted by these agencies. We all learned how vital it is to support the incredible work they do to feed families in need. One agency went so far as to say our donations over the past few years have helped them stay in operation. We were blown away by that. We had no idea of the impact this annual act of grateful giving has had in our area. After our fabulous lunch, students helped the food banks/pantries load the canned foods into their cars and trucks. In minutes, the food was loaded and on its way to help our community. We are so thankful for Laura Cudd, April Tucker, and Lisa Clement-DeFalco for spearheading our food drive efforts this year.
The third event in our triad of gratitude is the Fire Station Walk. We've been trekking down to Station Five just before Thanksgiving break almost every year for the past fifteen years (we missed one year due to misty, icy conditions). This walk is our opportunity to say, "Thank you!" to our firefighter friends.
We gather up all the students, faculty, and staff and set off along Boonsboro Road with parent volunteers and staff members acting as crossing guards to keep us all safe. Students walk with their Cardinal Buddies, so all the younger students have an older buddy to help them and set a good example for them. The students bring with them the many cards, poster, and small gifts they have created for the firefighters. It takes us about 15 to 20 minutes to arrive at the station. Once there, the students make their presentations.
Second grade sang I'm a Brave Firefighter to the tune of I'm a Little Teapot, while third grade transformed
Frère Jacques into The Firefighter Song. Kindergarten and first graders sang about an Attitude of Gratitude, and fourth graders read the poem they'd created for the occasion. Then the middle school advisories made their presentations of posters, cards, and other tokens of appreciation, which included a large origami turkey made by Mrs. Brandon's advisory. Students really look forward to presenting their gifts and shaking the hands of the firefighters. As a final "thank you," we gave the firefighters a gift certificate to a local store for their Thanksgiving meal. It was just one more way to show how much we appreciate their dedication, sacrifice, and leadership.
These three events are strong traditions at James River Day School, looked forward to each year by the entire school community. Whether a first grader, an eighth grader, a parent, or a staff member, we all really look forward to this time of year and all it brings. And, we wish you the happiest of Thanksgiving holidays!