Kindness, empathy and giving back are all subjects that Perham kids are focusing on this holiday season, according to Heart of the Lakes Elementary School Principal Liz Johnson. Throughout the past few weeks, students at the school have collected over 1,600 pairs of socks and underwear to donate to local people in need, for the school's first-ever "Socksgiving" event.

Elementary school staff and a fourth grade student ambassador group worked together to organize the event, with a goal to gather 1,500 pairs of socks. As an incentive for the kids, Johnson agreed to be taped to a school wall for two hours, to 'hang out' and read to students, if this goal were reached.

"When we first started out, I was worried about the challenge," Johnson said. "I thought it was maybe too high."

The kids helped Johnson count the donations every week, and the numbers slowly grew. The day before Socksgiving came to an end, they counted the numbers again and had just over 1,400 pairs.

"I thought, 'Who's going to get 85 pairs overnight?'" Johnson said. But the next morning, she and the rest of Heart of the Lakes were pleasantly shocked: "Overnight, we got over 200 pairs, for a total of over 1,600 pairs of socks and underwear. (The kids) did a nice job."

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The clothes will be donated to Otter Tail County, the Richville Clothing Mission and the Crosspoint Baby Bin.

Socksgiving tied into the students' November curriculum about kindness and giving back. The school hopes to hold the donation event in the future, in an even more student ambassador-led format. Johnson and other staff members helped the kids get it off the ground in its first year.

"(The students) crushed it," Johnson said. "We thought Socksgiving would be a great way to help the community. (The community is) very kind in helping us, and we're always looking for a way to give back and show we're grateful."

The kids will continue to learn about, and practice, kindness and empathy in December, and will be holding a shoe drive next.

"It's been a good month," Johnson said. "It's bringing us all together and gives us a chance to put goodness out there."