ILWACO - What began as a senior-year project for one IHS student has quickly become a holiday tradition here on the Peninsula.

"Dickens of a Christmas," an event offering things like toys, food and clothing to lower-income families at super-reduced prices, will take place this Saturday at the Ilwaco High School campus - from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. by invitation, and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. open to the public.

Her senior project a few years back, Jessica Leach thought up the idea which has now been taken on by the students that make up the IHS Leadership class, the IHS chapter of the National Honor Society and the Tlohon-nipts Alternative School. In all, over 30 students will participate, according to IHS ASB advisor Jo Peterson, who added that Joe Goelz is heading up the project this year.

The students received new items from the likes of Rite Aid, Fred Meyer, Dennis Co. and All Seasons Kids Stuff. Students of the alternative school reconditioned some bicycles, which will also be available on Saturday.

And perhaps the best part about it is how far parents will be able to stretch their dollar, with prices ranging from a few cents for a can of food, to no more than $10 - the bicycles will be the highest priced items.

"It helps parents with a low income provide a Christmas for their children," said Sadie Newell, publicist for the IHS National Honor Society.

Peterson agreed, saying most people prefer something like this, where they can actually buy something, rather than receive a handout.

"We've all had our rough times, but you want to keep your dignity, doing your part for your kids," she said. "We're not out to make money, we're just not. We're here to provide so that people can do something for their kids."

Peterson said students will decide which local charity to donate the proceeds to, though Newell was quick to cite His Supper Table as one possibility.

Saturday morning, the students will set up long tables in the cafeteria at IHS, then put out the variety of items that will be for sale. They will also be providing child care for the first time, available in the commons area inside the school building - that way parents can shop without their children seeing everything. Peterson said the popularity and importance of the event is obvious from how many people turn out.

"I was amazed at how well it is attended," she said. "People have been asking when they could bring donations in. It's sort of become a tradition."

She said that one family decided that rather than exchanging gifts amongst themselves that they would instead donate gifts to the drive. In all, Peterson said almost everything that will be for sale are new items - and those that aren't are very minimally used.

From the school side of things, Peterson said that she as also very impressed with the number and willingness of students who are involved.

"A lot of times, we're working with kids whose families aren't the ones in need, and they are very happy about being involved in this," she said.

"Dickens of a Christmas" will be open to the public from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. - by invitation only prior to that - on Saturday, Dec. 11 at Ilwaco High School.

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