By Josh Wucher
Stephanie Marsteller was not expecting a personal call from a popular Instagram personality with millions of followers after submitting an entry to the influencer’s holiday challenge. The G.W. Carver Indian Spring Middle School sixth-grade math teacher entered The Bucket List Family’s sneaky elf challenge to help give away thousands of dollars to help someone in need.
“The mother just really loved what I wrote,” Marsteller said about her submission, which explained the circumstances around the middle school’s merger after a fire destroyed the G.W. Carver campus in the summer of 2021.
“These are the kids I work with every day, and of course, I want to do anything I can for them. She Facetimed me to say how much she loves our story and wants to be part of it by helping our students.
Marsteller knew a perfect fit was to have the Gee family, the actual Bucket List family, sponsor 10 students in the school’s Winter Village program. Communities in Schools runs the adopt-a-student event, which aims to alleviate some of the stress of the holiday season by taking care of students’ gift wish lists.
“We know that the holiday season can be a difficult time for families in need,” Stefanie LeBlanc, CIS site coordinator, said. “For me, the holidays have always been about the kids, and I want our parents to know we are here to support them. My thought behind the Winter Village name is the quote, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’”
The program asks sponsors to provide at least one basic need and one want for a student. Requested items have included sheets, backpacks, clothes and food, with wants spanning skateboards to sports equipment, sketchbooks, books, games and puzzles. The program served six students when it started three years ago, then 26 students, followed by 36 last year.
“We’ve had a lot of support from the community and our teachers this year. It’s been awesome,” LeBlanc said. “When Mrs. Marsteller reached out about Instagram, I was so excited! With the help of staff, community partners, friends and family, we helped 50 kids. Everyone who applied was served.”