Fifty-two Chukker Creek elementary School fifth-graders eagerly lined up Nov. 8 to receive plastic shoeboxes with blue lids.
Shannon Farrell, 10, begged Casey Sanders, also 10, for a bigger box. When he handed it to Shannon, her eyes lit up as though she was opening her own Christmas present.
But the box and its contents will be another child's Christmas gift.
The Aiken-Palmetto Kiwanis Club donated the shoeboxes and items to make presents for Operation Christmas Child.
Growing in popularity in recent years, the charity has local groups make generic gifts for boys and girls. Many boxes contain everyday items that most Americans take for granted.
The Kiwanis Club had toy soldiers and coloring books to put in the boxes, in addition to soap and washcloths. Candy and gum also were included.
"I had my fingers and my eyes crossed hoping I would be picked from my class to do this," Shannon said. "My stomach fell when they announced my name."
The pupils created an assembly line, grabbing items designated for a girl's or a boy's box.
Shannon said she was surprised to see toy soldiers and chewing gum in the boxes.
"What if a small child got the box with chewing gum?" Shannon said. "But I would like chewing gum, so I guess it would be OK for an older kid."
Filling the boxes with gifts took only a few minutes.
"It's just really fun to do and you know you are doing a good deed," Casey said.
Angela Boyette, the president of the Aiken-Palmetto Kiwanis Club, said the service organization has participated in Operation Christmas Child for the past few years but that this was the first year it had worked with children to create the boxes.
Ms. Boyette said the group decided to use plastic boxes instead of traditional shoeboxes because, "The boxes are as much a present as the things in them."
Samaritan's Purse organizes Operation Christmas Child. More than 7.6 million boxes were collected nationally last year, with children in 95 countries receiving the gifts.
Reach Julia Sellers at (803) 648-1395, ext. 106, or firstname.lastname@example.org.