Wisconsin Students Turn Class Project Into Christmas Presents For Families

"18 hours by car," social work professor Stephanie Kissel says. "I think about 11-hundred miles."

Just as distance is no object for Santa Claus, these University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh students and their professor proved that you're never too far away to spread a little Christmas cheer.

"There were a few projects in mind, but they picked Katrina relief. They tossed around a lot of ideas with holiday cheer for the people who were down here, then they decided to fundraise," Kissel says.

The six students raked in over 4,200 dollars. Each family's bag of goodies was worth over 100 dollars.

"This is the ultimate class project, we got to road trip. And we get to put everything into action, and it's just been wonderful and extremely fulfilling for all of us," project creator Shanna Maloney says.

That ultimate road trip took the students out of the classroom and landed them in Ocean Springs, where they've had a chance to give back to the residents who've lost so much and to add a little fuel to the local economy.

"They were going to buy things and ship them down, but then they decided to come down and do it here. And bring the money here and infuse the economy here also," Kissel says.

And after 6 hours of shopping, the gifts the students delivered were very well received.  As for Maloney, she says the gift she's taking home doesn't cost a dime.

"The smiles. The whole project has been about giving these amazing people a Christmas. We just feel for them, and we want to be as much a hope for them as possible. We want them to know we haven't forgotten about them, and we're thinking of them and just to see some of these kids smile and open up their Christmas presents. That's all we need, just a smile," Maloney says.

The  students will be heading back to Wisconsin tomorrow morning to finish up their finals.  They say they will make sure people in their communities do not forget about South Mississippi.