Students at a Stateline elementary school are learning more than the usual subjects like reading, math and science: they're making sure local children they don't even know have a happy birthday.
For the sixth year in a row, fifth graders in Laura Stites' class have created birthday bags for local families in need.
"Every classroom in the whole entire school had a bag that said 'birthday bag' on it," said student Samantha Nevara. "And all the kids, it was their parents choice if they wanted to buy birthday cake, or frosting, or sprinkles, or candles, and they would put them in the bin."
"They just sent home a little note, saying, 'Hey, would you donate cake mix, a frosting, sprinkles, or candles?' Then, they go back a couple weeks later and collect all of the items from the classrooms," Stites explained. "We kind of sort them out here, count what we have. Then, I go shopping for the odds and ends and we put them together with one of each, in a little lunch bag, and we'll donate it all to the food pantry."
Stites has been teaching Caledonia Elementary for twenty-five years. She's seen how important it is to make a child's birthday special. So, she decided to teach her students how to make a birthday cake.
"It's like the stand out of the day," said fifth grade student Jonas Blair. "That's what you're excited for, is the big treat, because it tastes good."
"I want them to feel like how I feel when I get a cake, so I want them to feel happy and everything, 'cause when I get a cake, I feel happy too, so I want them to feel really happy when they get a cake," said fifth grader Lexie Phillips.
Stites says the bigger lesson isn't lost on her students.
"It's important to do this, give back to the community kind of thing," Stites said. "Even if they aren't able to donate something, just by using their time is just as important."
"If you get some extra stuff, you should donate it to the food pantry so they can help people in need," Lexie said.
The donations are being dropped off at B-1 Food Pantry on 7th Avenue in Belvidere.