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High-schoolers play Santa to elementary students in need

LAYTON — It was quite a sight Wednesday at Vae View Elementary as three buses full of high-schoolers showed up with bags full of presents.

That's about 250 students, and each of them had presents for students at the school.

Viewmont High students wanted to make sure kids at a lower-income elementary school have a Merry Christmas. So over the past few weeks, they've been collecting donations from businesses and residents, both online and by going door to door.

In all, the high-schoolers raised more than $75,000 to purchase Christmas gifts, books and clothing items for every student at Vae View Elementary, 1750 W. 1600 North.

The high-schoolers sat one-on-one Wednesday with the young students they shopped for, in most cases meeting them for the first time.

"I'm way happy right now,” said Viewmont sophomore Courtney Conover. “As I was walking in, I was just talking with everyone, and we're all so excited and glad to be here."

Sophomore Brenna McCoy called it the "most amazing experience" of her life.

"It's so awesome getting something for a special person," she said. "All you know is their name … and you're ready to love them and give them all the stuff."

The Viewmont students were given Christmas lists of items the youngsters needed and wanted. McCoy got Matthew Robinson’s list.

“When I got his list, I’m like, 'OK, this kid’s gonna be really awesome,'" she said, "because a kid who will have fun with a snow shovel is a kid who will have fun with basically anything.”

The 10-year-old said he was very happy with his presents.

“Shovel the snow, yes, and they're perfect for strength training,” Matthew said. “I need to do some catapulting lessons in the snow."

Viewmont senior Kaytlin Numbers had fifth-grader Robbie Marshall’s list.

“Merry Christmas," Numbers said. "Giving is the best gift, right Robbie?"

“Yeah, Merry Christmas,” he replied.

Numbers said more than 400 volunteers went to businesses and homes, "and we had lots of donations."

Vae View Principal David Pendergast called the Viewmont students' efforts "incredible."

“I don't think words can explain adequately what I felt in my heart, watching all those students get off the buses with bags full of toys and clothing — much-needed clothing for our students," Pendergast said.

The school has the highest poverty rate of any in the Davis School District, the principal said.

More donations are expected in the coming days, which could push the total to $80,000, making it a record-breaker for the annual fundraiser.

Money will also go to the Davis Foundation’s Child Spree, which hosts shopping trips for students in need to provide basic items they need to go to school.

Funds also will be donated to the Red Cross’ Measles and Rubella Initiative. For each dollar donated by the school, a child is provided with a vaccine.

“For our children, this is a very special day,” Pendergast said. “I think (it's) one that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives."

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Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc