ATLANTA — It's a special start to the holidays this year for hundreds of students at Cascade Elementary.
For 13 years, the Earn2Give program has given local students a chance to earn points throughout the year, then trade them in for holiday gifts.
It's a moment students have been working towards for months.
"When they first get the visual of this gymnasium, you should see their eyes sparkle," principal Tiffany Momon said. "It is amazing."
More than 70 volunteers worked for days to create the special shopping experience for students, transforming the gym into what student Madison called 'our own little mini mall.'
Madison, one of more than 350 students, who participated in Earn2Give this year. The group's mission is to help students connect their individual achievements to the joy and importance of giving to others
"You have to be a good student," student Makayla explained. "You have to help out your teachers, you have to be caring."
Momon added that the ability to shop for family members is especially meaningful to the kids.
"We are in a low socioeconomic area," she said. "So to be able to get gifts for your family members in the season of giving means a whole lot."
The gifts students find for family are both a token of love and a symbol of their hard work and achievements. Meanwhile, the event is a gift in of itself for the dozens of volunteers who take part and an unofficial kickoff to the holiday.
"It's what brings Christmas all around for me," volunteer Helen S. Carlos shared. "Seeing these children shop for their families, it just really warms the heart."
Another volunteer, Stacey Cohen agreed.
"It's almost like Santa Claus. Little kids don't have the opportunity. They don't work, but they work hard in school, and there's a lot that people don't see," she said.
To learn more about Earn2Give, visit their website here.