‘Turkey Feather War’ turns into act of Thanksgiving kindness

Students of St. Joseph Regional Academy, Jim Thorpe, with the check presented to Shepherd House, Inc., during a Nov. 17 assembly, from left: front, Ryan Berube and Matthew Kuznicki; second row, Kamryne Smith, Madison Bukics and James Sargent; third row, Rhiannon Dempsey and Jason Weng; fourth row, Logan Bauer, Bruce Cullen, Andi Hoherchak, Lizzie Snerr and Mackenzie Swift; and back, Maura Kelly, Taylor Saba, Lauren Reaman, Jenna Goff, Rhiannon Brady and Ashlyn Klitsch. (Photo courtesy of Colleen Hebding)

By TAMI QUIGLEY Staff writer

J.M. Barrie (1860-1937), creator of “Peter Pan,” penned the words, “Be kinder than necessary.”

This sentiment was taken to heart and made tangible recently at St. Joseph Regional Academy, Jim Thorpe, where the eighth grade class turned a Turkey Feather War into an act of kindness for the local food bank just before Thanksgiving.

Eighth-grade teacher Colleen Hebding said her class recently began the fundraiser to offset the cost of its end-of-year class trip to New York City.

They provided each grade in the school with a large, paper turkey. as well as 50 paper feathers. Students were asked to pay $1 for two feathers. Purchased feathers are displayed proudly around the classroom’s paper turkey.

The winner of the Turkey Feather War – Melissa Gilbert’s sixth-grade class – raised the most money, winning an ice-cream party hosted by the eighth-grade class, as well as the title of “Turkey Feather War Champions.”

The winner was announced at a Nov. 17 assembly, but something even more special was announced that day: the eighth-graders were happily donating the money to Shepherd House, Inc., Lehighton, a local organization that helps the needy throughout Carbon County.

“We informed the students that because of their generosity, we would like to pay that kindness forward,” said Hebding.

Students surpassed the $500 goal, and raised $634 through the annual school-wide event.

Hebding said she recently attended a Diocesan retreat at St. Mary, Hamburg, where the theme was “be kind, not nice.” She returned to the classroom and shared with her students our duty, as Christians, to be kind to others without expectation or reward. During their discussion, she asked if they would like to donate 100 percent of the proceeds from the turkey wars to a local charity. The students unanimously agreed.

“At that point, we had no idea how much money had been raised,” Hebding said.

“I’ve been thinking about Catholic identity and what it means to walk with Christ,” she said. “This reflection helped me realize that, during this time of year, we should be focusing on others.

“Stanley Haupt, the executive director of Shepherd House, was humbled by the generosity of the students.” He stopped by to meet them and receive the check.

“We realized it was the best thing to do in this season of giving,” said eighth-grader Taylor Saba.

“Giving the money to Shepherd House really warmed my heart,” said seventh-grader Jenna Goff.

Hebding is extremely proud of her students. “Our students exemplified the Christian spirit and have begun the process of carving out a Catholic identity for themselves through their charitable giving.”

Hebding has a combined seventh- and eighth-grade class, and noted “the seventh-graders worked as much as the eighth-graders to manufacture and distribute the turkeys and feathers to the other classes, even though they do not benefit from the proceeds.”

Because of the student’s generosity, a turkey feather war evolved into an act of kindness and peace for others.

As for raising money for the eighth-grade class trip, Hebding told her students, “God will provide other opportunities to fundraise, but when presented with an opportunity to do the right thing, the right thing should always prevail.”