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Students with special needs pack 1,150 Christmas stockings for Marines

Stockings for Soldiers (d-olwen-dee/Flickr)

Students with special needs at the Bucks County Intermediate Unit in Pennsylvania have something to teach us all about charity.

On Tuesday, IU students from communities across Lower Bucks gathered in a Bristol Township gymnasium and helped assemble an estimated 1,150 stockings stuffed with cards, games, snacks and other keepsakes for U.S. Marines deployed overseas.

Now in its fourth year, the Stockings for Soldiers program began in a single classroom. In 2015, Shannon Hamilton, an autistic support teacher, led her students in assembling some 200 stockings for U.S. service personnel, she said.

At that time, her brother, Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer Kevin Quigley, was stationed overseas.

“When I sent the shipment to Kevin and he was my point person, he knew the military members who would receive it,” Hamilton said. “He got them to people who were on their first deployment or those that, Kevin knew, might not get something from family.”

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Yesterday, with donated items coming from dozens of sources both local and nationwide, Bucks County IU students and staff prepared some 1,150 stockings for U.S. Marines, the district estimated.

“This year, we started an Amazon wish list, so we ended up getting donations from all across the country,” Hamilton said. “We have cards that are going to be put in the stockings from Georgia and South Carolina. We have cards made by our students.

“And what’s wonderful is that there is a way to participate for all of our students,” she continued. “Some of our students have multiple disabilities, and they’re able to stuff the stockings, put candy in the bag, or put a card in a bag. All throughout this process, we have students in charge of the inventory. So they need to count the items as they come in.”

Military personnel were also on hand Tuesday for the “Stockings for Soldiers Assembly Day” at the Samuel Everitt School in Middletown.

“This feels great,” said Shawn Sharkey, a staff sergeant with the U.S. Air Force and native of Philadelphia. “It’s great to just be here and to see all the kids putting the packages together.”

Quiqley, of Bensalem, thanked each child, individually, as they walked through the gymnasium.

“When you’re a forward-deployed Marine and you’re away from home for Thanksgiving or Christmas, its a reminder that there’s people back home that care about you enough put stuff together and mail it to you’,” Quigley said. “It’s awesome what these kids are doing.”

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© 2019 Bucks County Courier Times