Gunnison students keep Christmas ‘real’ with holiday project

Brinley Bown got in the spirit of Christmas giving with her ugly kitty sweater during Gunnison Valley High School’s “12 Days of Making It Real.”


Gunnison students keep Christmas ‘real’ with holiday project

By Linda Petersen

Staff writer

Dec. 28, 2017


GUNNISON—Four calling birds, five gold rings or eight maids a-milking has nothing to do with the reason for the season.

And Gunnison Valley High School students created “The 12 Days of Making It Real,” the high school’s unique take on the classic Christmas tradition of the 12 days of Christmas.

It came about six years ago after adviser Melissa Judy and student council members took a long, hard look at the dares they were doing to raise funds for Sub for Santa.

The dares were far away from the real meaning of the season, Judy said.

So the group sat down and evaluated what the best things about the season were.

“Every single person came back to a feeling they felt at Christmas or an experience they had with family and friends,” Judy said.

The dares didn’t even make the list.

Then and there, they decided to turn things around and, while they had no plans to abandon the Sub for Santa program, they shifted the entire focus of their campaign.

For the last six years, each student council has come up with 12 words that symbolize the true meaning of Christmas.

Then they produced videos to be shown daily to students and planned activities that go along with those words.

Each year, the words and the activities are a little different, Judy said.

This year, after raising close to $4,000 for Sub for Santa, which provided Christmas gifts for more than 100 families, the student council turned their efforts to the 12 Days.

The list of words this year included “merry & bright” (counting as one word), “festive,”  “cheerful,” “traditions,” “service,” “laughter,” “love,” “charity,” “family,” “friendship,” “warmth” and “believing.”

From Dec. 6 to 21, activities included games, a happiness tree filled with paper-chain loops where students wrote what made them happy, “sleigh” (decorated wagon) rides, a movie night and cookies and hot chocolate.

However, the most meaningful activities that will be remembered long after much of this season will be forgotten were those where the students served others, Judy said.

For “family,” student council members wrote personal handwritten notes to every single student, faculty and staff member—close to 400 in all.

For “service,” students split up and did 21 service projects in the community, ranging from helping the elderly to providing gifts of appreciation to firefighters and police officers.

The most meaningful word (“friendship”) and day (10th) this year was when the student body expressed their support for sophomore Jacko Hill who underwent surgery on Dec. 19 for a large tumor on his spinal cord. Along with supporting him in his final basketball game before the surgery, the whole school wrote notes and produced videos to send to Jacko during his recovery.

Students also sponsored a fundraising event at Subway and collected donations for several days to help the family with their medical expenses. They had plans to present those donations to Jacko and his family last weekend.

Judy and the 30 student council members put in hundreds of hours to make 12 Days happen.

Yet the adviser is quick to dismiss her contribution.

“The kids are amazing,” she said. “If I could have any kind of influence in helping people feel the real meaning of Christmas, that’s my Christmas present.”

“It has been so humbling to watch the goodness of our valley come together through our 12 Days,” she added.