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3,000 area residents took part in the United Way Day of Caring on Wednesday – so it certainly wasn’t just me, and I’m guessing my little part was just a sliver of a fraction of the whole effort. Those of us at KSL and the other branches of the Deseret Media Corporation did our bit by helping deliver books and bookbags to students at six Salt Lake City schools, and then spending some time reading to the kids, eating lunch with them, going to recess with them – and in my personal case, actually serving them pie. Paul Helms, the genius behind a lot of the bells and whistles you hear in the production on KSL Radio, and I volunteered in the 3rd grade classroom of Catherine Hawkins at Lincoln Elementary near 9th South and 2nd East. Can I just say, we were impressed! Ms. Hawkins is a dynamo – keeping a large-sized pack of energetic 8- and 9-year-olds entertained, engaged and learning is no small task, but she did it with character, aplomb and a good sense of humor. (Not to mention, some really cool shoes that had to be killing her feet with all that time spent upright and leaning over and walking around on tile floors.) I volunteer regularly in my son’s elementary school, so it was neat for me to see another school – one maybe that even had fewer resources at hand and more challenges to handle – and how the business of learning gets done in spite of the challenges or lack of resources. The children were very excited and eager to get to choose their own books and to try on their new book bags. Some of them couldn’t believe they got to take those books home with them. They sat and read eagerly to Paul and I – some of them quickly, some of them struggling, but all of them excited to have that book all their own and to learn something new. Paul made fast friends with a young man named Angel – who hugged him as we were leaving and didn’t want to see him go. I’m sad to say I didn’t catch the name of the young man I taught to play “Horse” at recess – but I am proud to say when the bell rang, he had a decent lead. Carla and Lupe also taught me a thing or two about hula hooping – and managed to keep theirs up long after 3 minutes when the bell rang and they had to quit. Lunch, I was glad to see, isn’t that different now than it was when I was a third grader. You can still stick your fork in the mashed potatoes and it will stay up of its own accord. But there are some healthy changes – the roll was wheat, there was a piece of fresh kiwi, and the chicken was baked instead of fried. Score one for healthy choices. The best part for the kids was their pie. Ms. Hawkins helped them learn to bake homemade pies with fresh fruit, inspired by a story they read about a girl who moved west with her family and needed a way to help them make money. In the story, Amanda’s pies were a huge hit. Likewise in the classroom – Paul and I grabbed the spoons and the cups and dished out 30 cups each of apple and blueberry pie “bites” so the kids could taste the fruits of their labor. (Well, actually we wound up with 32 apple and28 blueberry – Paul and I are apparently not as good with the fractions as your average third grader is. Oh, well!) I think I’m walking away from our day with a healthy respect for the challenges people like Ms. Hawkins face. I don’t think I could do what she does. And she does it so well. I’m also reminded how good my little boy, now a second grader, has it. He has all the supplies he needs, and he would never have shown the immense joy those 24 kids did at the simple gift of a book - it's commonplace to him, so it doesn't mean as much. All in all, an experience neither one of us will soon forget. If you haven’t done it lately, spend some time in a school near you. The kids love it, but you’ll probably learn as much or more as they do.