MANATEE -- Band students at Haile Middle School collected more than 300 toys to help less fortunate children, and delivered those gifts Wednesday to Toys for Tots.
While giving is a reward in itself, the day got even better because the students got to sit in classic Corvettes, dreaming of driving fast and taking "selfies" behind the stationary wheels. It took about three weeks for about 260 students in the band programs at Haile Middle School to gather more than 300 toys.
"Every year, we try to do something to benefit the community," band director J.R. Boatwright said.
Last year, the students collected canned goods for the Salvation Army, but this year they decided to collect new, unwrapped toys for children in need.
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Representatives from Toys for Tots collected the donations after school Wednesday and as a reward for the student' hard work, representatives from the local Corvette club brought in the muscle. Students oohed and aahed over the fast cars, taking pictures, asking questions and imagining what it would be like to drive real fast.
"It was pretty awesome," 14-year-old Austin Chapman, an eighth-grade student who plays the tuba, said Wednesday.
Sitting in the driver's seat of a bright red Corvette, Austin and 11-year-old Kendrick Sailes, a sixth-grade student in the chorus, said it was important for them to help give back to those less fortunate.
Although the students were excited over the cars, Mike McLain, a Toys for Tots representative, wanted to make sure the students took the time to think about the donation they were making Wednesday.
"We couldn't do it if it wasn't for people like you," McLain said. "Think about it. We couldn't do it without you guys."
Eighth-grade student Lane Seleska said it's an amazing feeling to know he'll help make Christmas morning special for other children.
"There's going to be joy for them, knowing they've got a toy under the tree," he said.
During December, the school celebrates "random acts of kindness," Principal Sharon Scarborough said. At the end of the month before the holiday break, the students will come together and fill out slips of paper about the acts.
Scarborough told the students to remember this donation when they come up on the random acts of kindness, which aren't just necessarily giving gifts, she said.
"We all can give a gift beyond toys, we all can give the gift of kindness," she said.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.