DELRAN — Holy Cross Academy students spent Monday making the "Giving Tuesday" initiative just a little sweeter.
About 50 Key Club students got together after school to decorate duffel bags and fill them with teddy bears, blankets, hygiene kits, coloring books and crayons, called "sweet cases," for foster children living in Burlington County.
"It's nice to do something for someone else, especially when it's a kid that's around your age or just a little younger — that connection is there and you want to help people around this area," said junior Greta Gareth, 16.
Greta, of Delanco, is the Key Club master who helped run the first-time service activity with her moderator, Debra Williams.
The club raised over $1,000 to buy the supplies for the bags, which were provided through a partnership with national nonprofit Together We Rise, which helps foster children across the country.
The project was a part of the private school's participation in "Giving Tuesday," a global initiative started in 2012 that encourages people to assist charities and nonprofits that help those in need the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and the big holiday shopping days of Black Friday and Small Business Saturday.
The students were in charge of stuffing and decorating the bags before they were given to Foster and Adoptive Family Services, a South Brunswick organization that will distribute them to county families.
"We always say that when you give things like sweet cases and backpacks, you're giving children much more than a bag of stuff," said Lynn Patmalee, director of communication and development for the nonprofit. "You're really showing them that there's someone out there who cares for them."
Williams said she hoped her students would be able to not only help foster children, but also realize the importance of helping those in need.
"It's also important for us to realize how fortunate we are," she said. "For our students to understand that they are fortunate, and that these are the most vulnerable of our society, the ones who are neglected."
For sophomore Michael Magargee, 16, of Mount Laurel, that's one of the reasons he got involved with the Key Club last year.
"We're very lucky to attend our school and have many things that these kids aren't able to have," Michael said.
The foster care children keep the bags and can use them to transport belongings, especially if they're switching homes, Williams said.
"(The children) leave foster care with these trash bags in their hands, and they don't have anything," she said.
Being able to make some local children's life better made Greta happy to participate.
"Just doing something so simple as drawing on a bag can really make kids happy, and I think that's why we're here today," she said.