Winter Wishes inspires giving

Puyallup's popular Winter Wishes program was pioneered in December 2009 by the leadership class, modeled off a program at Bethel High School. Wishes granted range from candy bars to dental care.

Meeting a deadline can be stressful, especially when there are around 1,600 high school students holding you accountable to that deadline.

The leadership class is meeting that same deadline this December through the Winter Wishes program.

An annual event for the last four years, every student and staff member is given one wish that has the potential to be granted by the leadership class.

The program began here when the leadership class heard about the Winter Wishes program being put on at another school from leadership teacher Jamie Mooring.

“We got the idea from Bethel High School, so we actually went to Bethel for a day and met with all of the people who coordinated the program to figure out how it was supposed to look,” Mooring said.

It was the students who wanted to start the program and who got it running, according to Mooring.

Alumni Alex Fraser was one of those students who began the Winter Wishes program at PHS.

“We really looked at what Bethel had and we tried to model everything off them and really think everything through,” Fraser said. “We basically started a to-do list because we had to start creating a timeline of when we had to have certain things done.”

The year after the leadership class went to Bethel, they were able to get Winter Wishes running and ready.

“That December [of 2009] is when we did our very first Winter Wishes,” Mooring said. “[The leadership class] had been bugging me to do it but I didn’t know if we could pull it off.  It’s kind of one of those things that you either do it well or you shouldn’t do it.”

While the possibility of the program existed, the planning for Winter Wishes began.

“It’s hard, because when you go and start anything it’s hard to have any expectations,” Fraser said. “You’re just hoping that it doesn’t ultimately fail. The fact that we actually got the program going and the fact that people had a good time, in my mind, the first year was a success.”

It was decided to have the program be held during the Alumni Assembly, which is put on in December before Christmas break.

“We wanted to have the program around Christmastime, we wanted to do it when we had a good audience and we also wanted to show the alumni community how giving and how generous we are today as a school and as a staff,” Principal Jason Smith said. “We inserted the program in there and it has been a big success.”

For the program to work, the leadership class needed donations. Local businesses and community members have supported the program through their donations.

“There are lots of contributors. Best Buy donates computers, Fred Meyer donates quite a bit—there is a huge laundry list of folks,” Smith said. “It’s amazing to me how much will be donated if you just ask.”

The leadership class tries to grant as many wishes as they possibly can. The wishes they grant can range from a candy bar to, one year, a student getting free orthodontic care from a local dentist.

While the program is a way to get students involved, it is also a way to help students in need. Items such as gift cards for gas and food are given to these students.

“That’s the beauty that a lot of people don’t see — when you bring a student into the office who has no money for the holidays and we give them a $500 gift card for food and presents,” Smith said. “To see them cry is just amazing.”

Even though the event is needed by some students more than others, it is still meant to be fun.

“You get a lot of the kids who just want a candy bar or the kids who say, ‘Oh, I want a pony’ so you give them a My Little Pony,” Fraser said. “We try to be creative and really try to get as many people’s wishes granted, even if it is in more of a funny manner.”