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Rosary girls play Santa for St. Peter’s School families

Teacher James Sanders senior Colleen Madlinger carry box presents collected for delivery deserving families as part school's Holiday Hopes program.

Teacher James Sanders and senior Colleen Madlinger carry a box of presents collected for delivery to deserving families as part of the school's Holiday Hopes program. Each home room gathered donations to purchase gifts and treats for 25 families in need from St. Peter Catholic Church. In all the school purchased more than $12,000 worth of gifts for distribution. Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 18, 2013 6:09AM

AURORA — The Rosary High School foyer was brimming with hundreds of neatly arranged and thoughtfully wrapped Christmas presents trimmed with bows and filled with hope for others.

“It is such a good feeling to be able to give all these gifts away,” senior Sarah Duguay said, after skipping with joy through the glass breezeway with her festively dressed classmates.

“You can feel the excitement in the school as we bring the gifts to the foyer,” Duguay said.

Christmas morning will shine that much brighter for 25 families from St. Peter Catholic School in Aurora, thanks to the generosity of Rosary High School students, families and staff.

On Thursday, the all-girl Catholic High School – celebrating its 50th anniversary this year – hosted its annual “Holiday Hopes” Christmas adopt-a-family service project to reach out to those in need this season.

Each homeroom was assigned a St. Peter’s family, and then the Rosary girls worked together in groups to think about what gifts the parents and children would like to receive and how they can fulfill their requests.

Along with clothing and toys, the students filled boxes with non-perishable food for the family table and a gift certificate to a local grocery store.

Senior Nicole Filardi said the service project begins with prayer for the families and reflection.

“We always pray for our Holiday Hopes families and as a school that we all have the inspiration to purchase gifts they would want. We reflect about the things we always look forward to for Christmas that we would like to share with the families,” Filardi said.

The students added that part of the fun for them was being able to have treats in the homeroom and wear festive sweaters, red candy-striped knee-high socks and snowflake sunglasses with their school uniforms, while holiday music sounded through the speaker system.

The St. Peter families were scheduled to arrive in the afternoon.

“One family last year was so overwhelmed by what they received that they cried and hugged us in happiness. It was very heartfelt,” Filardi said.

Senior Mallory Weis said they also reflect about that “must have” gift the high school girls think they want under their tree, and if they can donate the cost toward the project. The school raised more than $12,000 in a single day to provide gifts for their adopted families.

“It really puts into perspective about how much money we would give,” Weis said.

Sandy Iwanski, campus minister, said the families’ requests this year ranged from a toy truck to necessities for an expecting child.

“A mom asked for a stove pot that was big enough to make soup. We do our best to give our families what they need,” Iwanski said.

Iwanski said the girls each year are given a necklace with a single bell to remind them when it rings of the anticipation of the birth of the Baby Jesus.

“The project helps us focus on our own blessings and the blessings we bring to other people,” said Sister Patricia Burke, Rosary High principal.

As seniors, the girls are an inspiration to the freshman students participating in the project for the first time.

“We like to share with them the importance to be as giving as possible because it is such a great experience and it is so much fun,” Duguay said.

“This is our last Holiday Hopes at Rosary, so it is very special,” senior Emma Doroff said.

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