The holiday season is a special time at Puyallup High School, where students, business and alumni pull together to ensure a student’s wish to have a Christmas meal with their family or to be able to attend the prom is granted.
Now in its fifth year, the Winter Wishes program, led by the school’s leadership class, is set to fulfill up to 1,000 wishes granted by students, teachers and staff members.
The leadership team, led by teacher Jamie Mooring, grants wishes by soliciting donations.
“We divide and conquer and go out to the community to invite businesses to participate,” said Aaron Strobl, a junior who is a leader of the community outreach team.
On Nov. 22, a group of leadership team students shared their story about the program for 12 hours at a booth set up at Anthem Coffee and Tea in downtown Puyallup. A giving tree was set up, and it was filled with wishes.
“Customers were grabbing two and three and four at a time,” said Bryan Reynolds, co-owner of Anthem. “Our customers responded immediately and met the needs of the people. Our customers are so community-minded. They didn’t have to think twice.”
Reynolds said two students from the leadership team visited the store on a Monday to ask how Anthem could help. Reynolds said his store offers “takeover” events that allow organizations to stage a table in the store and share their mission.
During the time the groups are there, Anthem contributes a percentage of its business profits. For the Winter Wishes program, Anthem committed 20 percent of profits from Nov. 22.
“This will meet a lot of the needs,” Reynolds said.
Wishes granted can be as simple as a student who wants a cheeseburger, to asking Principal Jason Smith for a high-five, to something as meaningful as a new winter coat.
Earlier this month, Mooring said about 1,164 wishes had been asked.
“We grant everything that we can,” Mooring said. “If we can grant it, we will.”
Mooring said there were just fewer than 1,000 wishes granted last year.
Cheyenne Thomas, a senior who is a member of the leadership team, said the program has a way of affecting change on everyone at the school.
“It allows everyone to get pumped up for one day,” Thomas said. “It’s also hitting the deeper needs.”
Ally Crouch, a junior who is on the leadership team, said Winter Wishes embraces a “we-over-me” mentality.
“ ‘We over me’ is our big motto,” Strobl said. “It’s about bringing everyone together. The school is a close-knit family.”
Mooring said $2,400 was raised in gift cards alone last year. Often, they are grocery gift cards that are discreetly given to students whose family needs help during the holidays, Mooring said.
Lauren Adler, who graduated from Puyallup High in 2007, will help to drum up support from alumni. Adler’s parents and grandparents graduated from PHS in 1973 and 1950, respectively.
“A real big focus of mine has been on social media and reaching out to alumni,” Adler said. “There is a saying, ‘Once a Viking, always a Viking,’ and I think that is very true. I think people want current students to have the same opportunities that they did in high school and enjoy the experience just as well as they did.”
Many wishes will be granted during the alumni assembly, which will be held at 12:30 p.m. Dec. 20 at the PHS gymnasium.
“It’s the single greatest thing we do as a school,” Smith said. “It’s amazing the progress we have made.”
How to donate
Puyallup High School alumni who want to learn more about the Winter Wishes program can visit www.facebook.com/puyalluphighschoolalumnigiveback. To learn how to help, email Lauren Adler at firstname.lastname@example.org. Gift cards and cash donations are accepted. To learn about specific items, email email@example.com. Donations also can be mailed to 105 7th St. SW, Puyallup, WA 98371. All donations are tax-deductible.