Good Deeds Happening in 2019


Peter Pettorini

The members of the National Honor Society pose for a photo after helping with a party at Camp Duncan.

Camila Lazaro and Andrea Castaneda

In late November, Jean Manning died after years of battling breast cancer, leaving behind her 14-year-old son Jake Manning. Jake Manning has Down syndrome. Both Mannings moved to Massachusetts from Florida in order to continue her cancer treatment. Kerry Bremer, Jake’s special education teacher, grew very fond of the young boy. Bremer learned that Jean Manning was a single mother who had no one to take care of Jake if she were to die. Bremer wanted to reassure his mother that Jake wouldn’t be alone. Bremer adopted Jake after his mother died after years of spending weekends and holidays together. “He would be the sweetest little guy, who was looking you directly in the eyes and telling you he loved you,” Bremer said in an interview with CNN. “You can’t help but love him.”

Bremer not only gave Jean Manning reassurance, but happiness. A mother’s love knows no bounds, and Jean Manning left this world knowing that her son wouldn’t be alone. In a world where most people don’t think of anyone but themselves, Bremer thought of everything in order to make sure Jake will always have a loving home. Bremer’s kind action is a bright spot and a much-needed reminder to focus on others this holiday season. But it seems that many Panthers here at Round Lake High School don’t need a reminder, and working hard to spread some warmth and generosity to others.

The club Sister to Sister has a group of girls all committed to making some kids’ holiday brighter this year. The club, which focuses on improving self-image and helping the community, decided to host a toy drive and encourage friendly competition between all of the RLHS clubs. Earlier this month, clubs set out boxes in the commons during lunch hours. Students were encouraged to donate toys. The club who collected the most toys would win.

“One of the missions of Sister to Sister is to teach our girls to be part of a community and to think about what is like to help others,” said club sponsor and RLHS behavior interventionist Ms. Micah Evans.

Evans said the toy donations will be going to the Round Lake Rotary Club. She also said that Sister to Sister’s goal was to get at least 15  toys and “”to spread holiday cheer,” Evans said. “During a time of year when everybody is focused on ‘What am I getting? What am I going to ask for?,’ it’s important to start thinking about others, especially little kids who might get anything. The spirit of the season is really about little kids and making them feel good. Some of us have had rough Christmases and so remmebering how that felt, it’s important to say, ‘I may not have a lot, but what little I have, I am going to give.'”

Evans said that Sister to Sister is thinking about opening the toy drive school wide next year.

Another group of holiday do-gooders is RLHS’s National Honor Society. On Dec. 8, the NHS (along with NHS members from Grant Community High School) volunteered at the annual George Watson Camp Duncan Christmas party.

The party is hosted by the Round Lake and Fox Lake Rotary Clubs and was started over 40 years ago by a man named George Watson. With the help of several Fox Lake business owners, Watson threw a Christmas party at Camp Duncan so underprivileged children could experience a happy Christmas celebration.

“The event has grown and evolved into what it is today,” said Mr. Peter Pettorini, an English teacher at RLHS and NHS club sponsor. Nearly 250 students from families who could use some extra help this year are bussed to Camp Duncan. There, they get to eat a hot meal, sing and dance to music and get their faces painted. They also receive necessities like shirts, socks, and sweatshirts. They also get some fun items like teddy bears, a toy or sports ball of their choice, a backpack, and a stocking full of candy.

Throughout the day, both members of the National Honor Society help Camp Duncan staff doing different activities with the children. Both Grant and RLHS’s societies were able to collect toys to donate.

“This is a very special event,” Pettorini said. “You should see the kids’ eyes when they come in. They’re a bit bashful at first, but then they warm up, get to know the volunteers, and the fun begins. Each child leaves the event with a stomach full of food and a huge bag full of everything they need. It’s very meaningful to them and to the volunteers.”

If you are feeling inspired by these stories, then take action and watch yourself spread joy during this Christmas break by

  • Volunteering at a soup kitchen

  • Fostering animals

  • Redecorating community centers

  • Visiting nursing homes

  • Bringing coffee to construction workers, police on detail, or anyone working outside

  • Helping the homeless

  • Sending holiday cards

  • Babysitting

  • Helping a teacher get the supplies needed for class.

  • Making a donation to the Salvation Army