McHENRY – McHenry School District 15 students got into the giving spirit Wednesday for Parkland Middle School’s annual Parkland Pays it Forward day.
Students had the chance to participate in different volunteer projects that will benefit McHenry County nonprofits such as Helping Paws Animal Shelter, Home of the Sparrow, Pioneer Center for Human Services, Heritage Woods of McHenry and Project Linus.
The volunteer opportunity – held for about two hours in the afternoon – is in its sixth year.
Parkland teacher Mackenzie Shutt, who organized the event, has spearheaded the effort with help from the school’s student council. Shutt said she wants kids to have an opportunity to learn how good it feels to help others.
“I think the biggest thing is that they realize how easy it is to give back,” Shutt said. “I want them to have that feeling of how good it feels to do something for others, and hopefully that will spur them into thinking about it later on and maybe doing something on their own.”
Parkland Pays it Forward featured 24 stations where students completed projects. Projects included making blankets; making dog and cat beds; decorating cards and cookies; making school and fabric kits for Lutheran World Relief; and writing inspirational sayings on rocks and heat packs.
Students also had a chance to pitch in for a student-run Homerun Helpers program, which Parkland teen Caden Ringer runs.
Off-site projects included volunteering at senior service centers, Turning Point of McHenry County and other District 15 schools.
Seventh-grader Cole Amelse said he enjoyed the volunteer day because it benefits good causes. He participated in making blankets for Project Linus.
“I think this was the best cause because it’s going to help people who are going to be in the hospital for a long time,” he said.
Student council member Maddie Micklinghoff said that although putting together the event can be complicated, she liked that it was inclusive of many projects and organizations.
“I like how different people can volunteer for different things,” the seventh-grader said. “They can participate in different ways to help people.”
Eighth-grader Chris Schoder said the best part of the event was collaborating with others.
“I like how a bunch of people can come out to help the community,” he said. “It brings all different kinds of people together. … It makes me feel good. Everyone is trying to help. It’s nice.”