It was a chilly inside the glass atrium of St. Ann Catholic School Friday morning, but the dozens of big red bags stuffed with toys and other gifts at the door were about to warm the holidays for 166 foster children and their families.
The gifts collected by the 420 students, their classrooms and their families were for the Christmas Red Bag Program, a charity started by a St. Ann parishioner, Daniel Jacobs, 33 years ago. It serves kids in foster care throughout the metropolitan area.
“Giving gifts is my absolute favorite thing to do,” said Savannah Bittner, 13, an eighth grader at St. Ann. “When you think about all these kids, you picture how they don’t have all the blessings we have at St. Ann.
“It feels good to give them these things, this might be the only gifts they get.”
In November, students and their families are asked to adopt to adopt a foster child ranging in age from infants to 18. They’re given a list of items the child and their family might need and encouraged to make their red gift bag as festive as they’d like.
Matia Ianni, 13, also in the eighth grade, said the kids she and her family chose were a 16 year-old boy and toddler girl. For the boy, Nike clothes and a basketball were in the Red Bag, the little girl was receiving clothes, a baby doll and a cute backpack.
“We do this to help kids in the foster care system have a Merry Christmas,” Ianis said. “These might possibly be the only gifts they receive.”
Savannah is the daughter of Jeff and Joy Bittner, Matia’s parents are Bruce and Mary Ianni. Both girls have been participating since they were kindergarteners at St. Ann.
Principal Michael Riley said the Red Bag program is embraced by all the students and their families at the Prairie Village school. Charlotte Butler and Tracy Blasdel, parents of St. Ann students, were on hand Friday morning to help get the gifts ready to be picked up.