PATERSON — One year ago, we told you about teacher Jennifer Olawski's quest to provide art kits as Christmas presents for some students at her school. Her second year of fundraising is an expanded effort that has caught the attention of many.

As a physical education and health teacher at the Community Charter School of Paterson, Olawski sees about 500 kids pass through her classes each year. So the theme of her GoFundMe page this time around was "500 Presents, 500 Smiles."

"As an educator, I believe it's crucial to teach our children the simple act of kindness. My goal is to make sure they understand they are loved, valued, and cared for," Olawski said. "Seeing their faces light up was a moment I will cherish forever."

After raising about $2,500 last year, Olawski set a goal of $4,000 for 2017. She has well exceeded that, allowing her to diversify the kinds of gifts her kids received. Kindergarteners still got the art kits this year, but first- through fourth-graders got gloves, winter hats, coloring books, and slime-making kits.

The GoFundMe page is still accepting donations.

The presents were handed out on Monday, Dec. 18. Almost immediately following the event, a thankful parent came up to Olawski, speaking for many more whose children's holidays were made a little brighter.

"She was just going on and on, and thanking me, and saying how it's such a pleasure to have such positive role models in my children's lives, and that's what these students need," Olawski said. "She was getting emotional, and I was getting emotional, and it was just something, you know, really special."

The above post is sponsored by Children’s Specialized Hospital Foundation, which supports the programs and services of the hospital. Donations to Children's Specialized Hospital Foundation go directly to helping pioneer new specialized care and serve more children in need. To help, or for more information: visit childrens-specialized.org; find Children's Specialized Hospital on Facebook, or follow on it on Twitter.

Patrick Lavery produces "New Jersey's First News" and is New Jersey 101.5's morning drive breaking news reporter. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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