Local teacher making a difference for sick children

Elementary school teacher, Autumn DeCleene, with students inside her classroom at St. Bernard School in Green Bay, May 2017. (WLUK)

GREEN BAY (WLUK) -- A local teacher is making a difference in the lives of sick children around the country. She's a teacher at St. Bernard elementary school in Green Bay, who for years, has organized a service project that keeps growing and growing.

Autumn DeCleene leads little learners in lessons for academics and life.

"Every year, we inspire our kindergartners to believe that although I'm only five, I can make a difference," DeCleene said.

DeCleene tells them, they can make a difference in the world by giving their time, talent or treasure.

"They're only five, they don't have a lot of money for treasure but they do have time, and they have a lot of talents, and I want them to showcase that, so they gave up their free time for a month, which for a kindergartner is everything," said DeCleene.

They used that time to help with a service project that benefits kids with cancer.

The students collected donations of money and toys and sorted them in boxes to be ready for delivery.

One kindergarten student said helping others makes her feel proud.

"Because it makes my heart feel happy," said Brynlee Hanold, kindergarten student.

The students may be little, but they're making a big difference. Some of them even got a chance to go down to Florida, and see the children they were helping. Over spring break, four families traveled to Florida with DeCleene and her family, to help deliver the donations.

The program is called, "Give Kids the World."

"It's a place where kids that have dangerous diseases, like cancer, go where they can get the care they need," said Emmett Hunter, fifth-grade student.

"It was really rewarding to me because I like making other people happy and that just makes me happy," said Madi DeCleene, sixth-grade student.

Besides toys, the group also delivered about 500 hand-made pillow cases.

The idea is for the children to use the pillow cases when they go to the hospital for treatments.

"They're at a really hard point in their life right now, and I think we should be giving them stuff to distract them from that and just think of happy things," said Madi DeCleene.

The families who made the trip say the experience was humbling.

"But equally exciting. I was excited to have this opportunity and share it with my kids and teach my kids such stewardship and to do with friends, too. It's a great community thing that we came together, and all did together," said parent, Nichole Hunter.

For DeCleene, she is thrilled the students get to see how far their hard work can go.

"Just to get that sense of humblement and appreciation for your life," DeCleene said.

She looks forward to helping the project grow, even more, for next year's class.

"I think it's an important contagious feeling, volunteering. It feels good inside to do it and it makes me happy. And it's important for me as a teacher," DeCleene said.

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