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TWIN FALLS — This isn’t your average change drive.

Students don’t dig between sofa cushions or on top of the washing machine to find pennies and dimes. It’s a major fundraiser.

Each year, the student councils at Twin Falls and Canyon Ridge high schools collect money for about a month to buy Christmas gifts for local families in need.

On Wednesday, Canyon Ridge High School’s student council spent the morning buying more than $27,000 worth of household items and Christmas gifts for at least eight families.

It’s an eye-opening experience to help families in the community, Canyon Ridge student body president Priscilla Nieto said. “It’s definitely one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.”

Canyon Ridge students have organized a “Pennies for Possibilities” drive every year since the school opened in 2009.

At Twin Falls High School, “Change 2 Change” started in 2002, and students have raised more than $500,000 since. This year, students raised $11,880 and delivered gifts Saturday to 10 families.

Canyon Ridge student leaders kicked off their delivery day at 7 a.m. with breakfast at IHOP.

At Fred Meyer, each group of student leaders shopped for one family. They had a list with a fictitious last name — so the family’s true identity would stay anonymous — and the age and gender of the family members and clothing sizes.

Priscilla and two friends were shopping for a family with a 6-month-old baby boy.

Student council adviser Jeremy Belliston talked with school counselors at Canyon Ridge, and its feeder elementary and middle schools, to identify families in need. Then, he contacted each family to get their sizes and wish list.

On Wednesday, many of Canyon Ridge’s student leaders were in the clothing section of Fred Meyer.

Priscilla and her group’s shopping cart was full of baby items such as diapers, wipes, blankets, clothing, socks and shoes, and medicine.

Priscilla picked a flannel onesie off a rack and held it up.

“This is so cute,” she told her classmates. But it was for 24-month-olds, so she was looking for a smaller size. Her group also decided to pick out a winter coat for the little boy.

After spending the morning shopping, students had lunch and wrapped gifts.

Starting about 6 p.m., they took a school bus to the families’ homes to sing carols and deliver the Christmas presents. They expected to wrap up the day around 11 p.m.

Here’s a look at how Canyon Ridge and Twin Falls high schools raised money this year:

Canyon Ridge High

Canyon Ridge students topped their fundraising by $4,000 over last year. “It’s just super cool how it happened,” Priscilla said.

Student council members went around to different classes collecting money. Some students brought in change, while others donated checks from family members.

Each grade level competed against each other. This year juniors won, earning an extra day of spring break.

During their student council class, student leaders also went to local businesses to ask for monetary donations or items such as gift certificates.

Cash donations went toward the grand total. Items donated were used in 27 baskets for a silent auction.

Attendees earlier this month made a donation to get into the event, which included dinner and bidding on silent-auction baskets. The event brought in more than $4,000.

Some of the donated items were used for a separate silent auction just for Canyon Ridge faculty members.

Another major source of fundraising this year was Robert Stuart Middle School, which raised about $3,300 — well above the school’s $2,000 goal.

Twin Falls High

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Twin Falls High’s student council focused on involving students, student leader Rebekah Kezele said.

That included collecting money in jugs, a bake sale, selling T-shirts and a benefit night at Pizza Pie Café.

Student leaders also made it a class competition to raise the most money. Seniors won, and they’ll receive a half-day off school.

They still received a lot of support from local businesses, but students took the lead.

“The students definitely stepped up a lot so we didn’t have to rely on businesses,” student leader Ashley Christensen said.

On Saturday, students started shopping at 9 a.m. at Fred Meyer. By the time they’d finished, wrapped presents and delivered them via school bus, it was 9 p.m.

This year, “we wanted to choose families specifically with children in need,” student leader Savannah Mallett said.

She and a classmate talked with school counselors — including at Twin Falls High’s feeder elementary schools — to select families most in need.

Student leaders decided to pare back how much they spent in order to reach more families — 10 this year.

“This year was definitely focusing on needs rather than wants,” student leader Addison Archibald said.

When students went shopping, they purchased items such as food, clothing, winter boots and coats, and bed sheets for the families.

When they delivered the gifts, the families were so grateful, Ashley said.

It was also an opportunity to create personal relationships with those they helped, Savannah said, and it “flips your perspective.” This time of year, it’s nice to focus on someone else.


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