51ºF

Students get surprise visit from Saint Nicholas

HandsOn Jacksonville donates backpacks filled with books, toys

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The holiday season is in full swing and HandsOn Jacksonville partnered with community members to bring Saint Nicholas to local elementary schools Friday.

The annual event is held every year by HandsOn Jacksonville and community volunteers and businesses, including Wells Fargo.

One of those lucky schools that got a visit from St. Nick was Sallye B. Mathis Elementary, a Title 1 school.

"I have never seen him before and never met him in my life," first grade student Layla Denise-Griffin said.

Saint Nicholas' surprise visits came with a special message about kindness and helping others.

Gold tinsel lined the hallways of the elementary school as Saint Nick went to classrooms spreading his message.

Saint Nicholas brought kindness coins for the children to be rewarded for their good deeds and teach them to be nice to one another.

"Sometimes, some of our kids don't even have the opportunity for true Christmas," principal Katie Adkins said. 

More than 5,000 backpacks, stuffed with books and toys, were given to the students.

"We specifically chose Title 1 schools because we know that the backpacks and toys and ponies that they get could be the only gift they get for the year," Saint Nicholas said.

The students gave dozens of thank you cards and posters to the volunteers and Saint Nicholas to show their gratitude for the special visit.

"Just fills your heart with joy and warmness," Saint Nicholas said. "Even if it inspires one or two children to be nice for the day, for the week, the effort is all worth it. I wouldn't give it up."

More information about HandsOn Jacksonville and volunteer opportunities in the area can be found on their website