This Christmas, 546 children in need are receiving gifts and prayers from students, families, and faculty members of Cardinal O’Hara High School  in Delaware County.

For over a decade, Cardinal O’Hara has hosted its Operation Santa Claus program, and fulfilled the Christmas wishes of thousands of local young people in need throughout the Philadelphia area.

“There is something special and unexplainable about being able to organize an event that gives hundreds of children a present to open on Christmas morning,” says Maura Zimmerman, a senior at O’Hara.

Senior Mia Travia says that Operation Santa Claus is “a great way to get involved, get festive, and most importantly, to participate in something greater than ourselves.”

“It really does feel like Santa’s Workshop,” she said.

Each year, the school partners with charitable organizations throughout the area, including Catholic Social Services (CSS) of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and its Archbishop’s Benefit for Children (ABC) program, to acquire the names and wish lists of children in need.

Students at Cardinal O’Hara High School in Delaware County work to bring Christmas cheer to children in need with its Operation Santa Claus program. (Cardinal O’Hara High School)

On Dec. 14 the school community gathered for its annual Operation Santa Claus wrapping party and prayer service.

The event started with a 2:30 p.m. prayer service with Father August Taglianetti, Director of Campus Ministry.

“Jesus tells us that whatever we do for others, we do for him,” says Senior Gerard Gallagher, reflecting on the event. “So, being able to provide gifts for families who are struggling is a reminder of Christ’s love and what the Christmas season is all about.”

The wrapping party followed with Christmas music and treats for the students to enjoy.

“Our wrapping party is my favorite day of the school year, as it warms my heart to actively watch our students spread joy, show compassion, and make a positive impact in the lives of children in need, said Social Studies Teacher, Patricia Commale, who graduated from O’Hara in 1997.

Commale says that participation in this yearly event helps students to learn “empathy, generosity, and the joy that comes from selfless acts of kindness.”

“These experiences will undoubtedly shape their character and contribute to their development as responsible and compassionate individuals,” she said.

Afterwards, gifts were distributed to the school’s partner organizations to be delivered to the children to enjoy on Christmas morning.

“You are overcome with joy, just by knowing you are helping out a child or family in need,” said senior Grace Mazur of participating in the event.

“My greatest hope is that our students will carry these values with them beyond their high school years,” said Commale, “becoming lifelong contributors to the well-being of others and embodying the principles of their Catholic education that they received at Cardinal O’Hara.”

(Cardinal O’Hara High School)