DES MOINES, Iowa - If you give a kid a gift card, you might be surprised to find what they spend it on. Hint: Not a shiny new toy for themselves.
The age-old lesson of "giving is better than receiving" was taught to 184 students from Mitchellville Elementary School Friday, as Ken Deever, founder of Deever Roofing and The Rooftop Foundation, donned the red coat and served as Santa Claus for his annual event, "Christmas for Kids with a Wish."
"The rule is to buy for others," Deever said.
Deever donated a $50 Wal-Mart gift card to each of the 184 students this year, but they had to spend the money on anyone but themselves. Kids came up with a Christmas shopping list ahead of time, and spent the morning at the Southeast 14th Street Wal-Mart in Des Moines purchasing gifts for their families and friends.
"I was born down on the river bottoms, off of 2nd Avenue. No running water, nothing until we moved out of there," he said. "We never really had much for Christmas, and I thought if I could ever get a chance to give back to people in need, I would."
And he did. Beginning this tradition in the early '90s, Deever says he eventually created The Rooftop Foundation to help teach kids the gift of giving. He says it's all worth it when he hears a kid say it felt good.
"Some of them tell us in their thank-you letters, 'I want to grow up and be just like you.' When you hear about, 'I was able to buy for my parents,' or, 'I was able to buy for my brother,' then, 'I want to be just like you and give,' you've accomplished it," he said. "So, my theory is: If you just turned a few kids that might have went bad, over this experience, it's worth everything in the world."