A New Jersey teacher went above and beyond to ensure every child in her school would have a merry Christmas, raising thousands of dollars to buy gifts for the 500 students at her school.
When Jennifer Olawski spoke to a student last year about what the little girl hoped to get for Christmas, she learned that the child had never before received a gift for the holiday.
“And that just hit me so hard,” Olawski told InsideEdition.com.
Olawski teaches physical education and health at Community Charter School of Paterson, a kindergarten through fourth grade school where 90 percent of students come from families living below the federal poverty level.
“Paterson is a very diverse city, one in which I have come to really appreciate the beauty of all the historic background. 87 percent of our students qualify for free lunch,” Olawski said.
Olawski set out to get the girl a card and a gift, but soon her idea grew to ensuring every child had a present under the tree.
She raised $2,500 last year to buy each student an art set, and this year, she sought to continue the tradition. Olawski raised $4,500 through a GoFundMe page.
"This year I raised enough money to get each child multiple gifts,” she said. “I got each child a slime-making kit, a winter hat and pair of gloves and coloring book.”
The children were touched by the gesture, and were especially happy with a gift most other children may take for granted.
“I didn’t think they would like the hat and gloves but I thought it was important because I see them come into school when it’s snowing [and] some of them don’t have the gloves and hats that they need,” Olawski said. “It turned out when they opened their gifts that was something they really appreciated.”
Many students cried and hugged Olawski harder and longer than ever before, she said.
"Just seeing their faces and tears of joy during the event just made every single hour of wrapping and carrying the gifts up and going from store to store made it all worth it,” Olawski said. “They deserve it.”
Olawski is already collecting donations for next year through a GoFundMe page.
“Next year it’s going to be even better and I hope to bring more smiles to their faces,” she said.
It’s her hope that others see this act of giving as inspiration.
“A random act of kindness is one of the most beautiful things you can do — challenging, but beautiful,” she said.