(Jennifer Denevan, Laughlin Nevada Times) – The energy in the Laughlin Junior/Senior High School exploded as Bennett Elementary School students learned about the various surprises coming to them, including a visit from Santa Dec. 9. Every student at the elementary school received new shoes, socks and the younger students received toys earlier in the week.
The shoes, socks and more were only part of the story. The students came over to the high school to hear a shorter version of the holiday concert performed Dec. 7. They heard from different groups and individuals as entertainment.
The program included performances by some of the guitar students. Senior Erin Dillon, who recently performed in the Honors Guitar Ensemble at the end of November, played a couple of numbers for the students. One song included Green Day’s “Time of Your Life.”
Guitar instructor John Del Quadro’s sons, James and Charles, also performed for the elementary students. A rousing rendition of “The 12 Days of Christmas” was performed by the staff of the elementary school. It told the story of what teachers expect to get from students as gifts during the holidays.
At the end of the program, Santa came and spoke with all the students. Then gifts, some toys, were handed out to all the students. The excitement could not be contained.
The entire program came about due to the giving nature of Bob and Sandy Ellis, of Henderson. For the last several years, the couple has been visiting schools with low income or an under served student population and they give every child a pair of shoes and a toy for Christmas. This year, they choose to come to Bennett Elementary School.
The couple worked with the schools and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Laughlin Substation to help with the program and giving away the shoes.
Every child was given a pair of shoes, two pairs of socks and a toy. Seventh graders to seniors were given shoes and socks. The Ellis’ did the same for Searchlight students.
Volunteer Tessa Stewart said the Ellis’ have been doing this for more than 10 years around the Las Vegas area. To her understanding, they have six schools in Las Vegas they help, the elementary school in Indian Springs, all the schools in Lincoln County and then they added Searchlight, Laughlin, Good Springs and Sandy Valley this year, she continued. The couple sets up a Christmas assembly and is sure to attend every one personally.
Stewart told the audience the couple has given away nearly 25,000 shoes. While the Ellis’ would never talk about the cost, it is big but it’s worth it to them because they believe in the students, she continued.
She talked about how much the Ellis’ believe in students’ potential and that’s why they want to help. The couple wants to ensure students are taken care of so they can do well in school and have future success, she said.
Stewart said she, the other volunteers, teachers and more also believe in the students and their potential. They all want to help get students on the right path, she added.
She spoke of her own personal experience of growing up without much money but working hard in school. Having success in the classroom eventually led to her going to college and ending up in Washington, D.C.
While it’s everyone’s wish that life were more fair and that students didn’t have to have bad days, she said. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. She advised students to not let unfairness hold them back from anything they want to accomplish.
Lt. John Healy, of the LVMPD Laughlin Substation, talked to the students about bullying and learning to be nice and kind, especially around the holiday season. He said not everyone will have the same clothes or shoes but that’s not a reason to be mean to someone.
Healy also spoke of the Ellis’. He said Bob Ellis is one of the most generous people he knows and was happy to introduce him to the students.
Ellis thanked Healy for all of his efforts and congratulated Healy on his upcoming retirement. Ellis talked about how he’d heard about Bennett Elementary and he wanted to help encourage students to keep up the good work.
He thanked the upperclassmen of the high school for helping with making the assembly happen and be successful. He thanked LVMPD and principal Dawn Estes for also helping make it be a success.
There was a presentation made to the Ellis’ from both the Searchlight and Laughlin schools as a way of thanking them for their gifts.
Then Santa visited. There was already a lot of excitement but once the jolly elf in the red suit showed up, the joy overfilled the room. Toys were handed out and children filed out of the auditorium to get milk and cookies to wrap up the assembly.