When the Garden City High School Hall Freshman Academy student council assembled to hand over a $500 check to a local charity, there was excitement in the air.

Their teachers smiled proudly and the beneficiaries were emotional. There were also admissions from the council that at the beginning they feared the whole thing would not amount to anything.

“We thought we would probably make $50,” one of the mostly 14 and 15-year-olds said, to the amusement of the others at a ceremony to hand the check to the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree gift-giving program.

The Garden City High School Hall Freshman Academy student council has been working on the fundraiser project for the holidays. The $500 check was presented on Friday, outside the office of Associate Principal Steven Nordby at 1 p.m. at the school.

The students discussed several different ideas before settling on the project to raise money for the Angel Tree.

“We thought of showing a movie during mentoring or ugly sweater day or just to do something everyday just to get the students pumped up for the finals,” Grace Schmidt, 14, said. “We thought this method would be the most successful as it would have most students participate. And it would be a good way to give back.”

The council was represented at the ceremony by Beth Guymon, 15, Raegan Linebeger, 15, Kylee Hipp, 15, Berenice Dominique, 14, Lacey Barnett, 15, Pauline La, 15, Emily Robles, 14, Odaly Garcia, 15, Meghan Espinosa, 14, Alexis Castillo, 15, Luz Labra, 15 and Schmidt.

“The response was really good,” Guymon said. “The majority who donated were from the freshman class, though there were a couple of people from the upper classes.”

The High School jazz band volunteered their time too, making it one of the biggest team efforts that the student council has undertaken.

The council did not think it would go very far in the beginning. They thought they would probably run the drive for a day or two. “We were happy we made it this far, and we definitely did not think we would make this much money,” they said.

Since it is the Christmas season, the girls wanted it to be a giving season and to encourage the other students to give. By selling candy canes for a dollar, and getting the school’s jazz band to perform for a dollar from all who attended, they managed to get the money.

Nordby praised the coordination of the girls. “We could have easily just written a check or just taken it to them,” he said, “but I wanted them to see the end result of the effort.”

Lieutenant Jeff Curran of the Salvation Army already has an idea for next year. Could the students do the toyshop, the annual activity to collect donated toys for children around Garden City? He asked because of the amazing generosity and effort Curran had witnessed for the Angel Tree project.

The principal was in agreement, though no promises were made.

Lieutenant Joyce Curran, who runs the Angel Tree project every year said, “We have a goal for how many kids we see and we were at 379 last year. I said we needed to reach at least 500 kids. So we opened up the waiting list, calling people and telling them to sign up. Well, the toys came in, and the kids are going to be blessed.”

Lt. Joyce Curran said the Salvation Army gets overwhelmed by gestures such as the one by the GCHS students’ council. “The outpouring of the community of Garden City is incredible,” she said adding that next year the goal for the Angel Tree will be increased, seeing as there were more people making donations every year.

“These are students,” Lt. Joyce Curran said. “Usually it is assumed they should be thinking about their finals or the end of the quarter coming up. Instead, they thought about what they could do for the Angel Tree.”

Her husband, Lt. Jeff Curran, rejoined that students probably would be expected to be thinking about what’s under the tree for them, not what’s under the tree for somebody else. “That warms my heart,” he said.

Lt. Jeff Curran said the goal of the toy shop, under which the Angel Tree is organized, is that no child in Finney County should wake up Christmas morning with no present under the tree. “It is efforts like this that help us achieve that.”

According to Nordby, service is a big part of what the GCHS administration tries to instill in freshmen in the hope it will carry on through their high school career, so they can do more and more for someone else.

“This is the first time that I know of that we linked this to an organization like Salvation Army,” Nordby said. “We’ve done smaller donations with smaller organizations like Emmaus House but they really wanted to focus on the Salvation Army and the Angel Tree.”