EAGLE MOUNTAIN — A family has a reason to smile in the midst of tragedy thanks to a fifth-grade class at Eagle Mountain Elementary School.
The students in Shannon Despain's class at Hidden Hollow Elementary School in Eagle Mountain were originally raising money to host a bowling tournament with patients at the state hospital, but plans fell through. They were given a choice: go bowling at a later date, just for fun, or give the money to charity. By unanimous vote, they chose to give the money to a family in need.
Joni Anderson, a room mother in the classroom, said the class was eventually led to the family of Kaden Fraughton, a 31-year-old Eagle Mountain woman killed Dec. 2 in a car accident near Fairfield. Fraughton left behind a 9-year-old daughter and 5-year-old and 6-month-old sons.
Anderson said the kids were touched by the family's heartbreak and went to great lengths to raise money to provide the family for Christmas. One girl asked everyone she knew for donations. A family donated an old trampoline to be sold as scrap metal, and one boy had a different idea:
"He found a strand of Christmas lights and was going to take all the little copper parts out of the lights because they didn't work anymore, and he figured all that little copper would be better than nothing," Anderson said.
The class ultimately raised just over $200, and went to Walmart to pick out gifts. Splitting into groups with a budget of $20 each, they dispersed throughout the store with chaperones in tow, searching for the perfect Christmas presents.
"They worked really hard to find clothes that were the right size, and to make sure there were no doubles," Anderson said. "They wanted to make sure the kids would be excited."
She said the class ended up with a 32-gallon garbage bag full of toys — and that wasn't all of them. Anderson took the presents to the family's home earlier this week and left a card signed by the students, along with the presents, on the front porch. She said the students are still looking for ways to serve.
"They're still bringing in cans to recycle. It really left an impact on them," she said. "What really impressed me was when the service part was over, they chose to serve more. They were willing to do whatever it took."
She said she hopes if the students learned one thing from the experience, it would be that "holidays don't have to be about yourself."
"If you can make it about someone else, especially someone who isn't as blessed as we are what you do as an example will be passed on," she said. "The more good they put in the world, the more good will be put in the world elsewhere."