Florida teacher collects school supplies instead of wedding gifts for another school

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Teachers often go the extra mile for their students, but one Hillsborough County teacher recently went above and beyond for students from another school in the county.

Newlyweds Kelli and Matt Cameron knew they weren’t big fans of asking for gifts from guests as they were planning their wedding.

So they decided to give back instead of receiving things they said they didn’t need.

Kelli is a first-grade teacher at Roland Park. She said it was more of her husband’s idea not to do wedding gifts.

“I was a fan of the no wedding gifts, but I even said, ‘well maybe we could have them donate towards our honeymoon or something like that.’ And he was like, ‘no, let’s not even do that.’ And that’s when we started brainstorming a little bit more,” Kelli said.

She said they talked about different ideas, such as collecting money for the Humane Society. But with her teaching experience, she said collecting backpacks and school supplies just made sense.

“I got in contact with a few people at my school to give me an idea of what schools were in need in Hillsborough County. I actually had the daughter of the assistant principal of Booker T Washington in my classroom. So we got in contact and I was able to get an actual list of what Booker T needed.”

Kelli and Matt made a website and Amazon registry and sent out cards that said “in lieu of gifts, please give a backpack” in their wedding invitations.

Matt explained the cards were modeled after “angel tree” fundraisers that are often seen around holidays.

“I thought we had to have something very specific to get people involved. So the idea of kind of like following the angel tree idea of ‘you’re getting a second-grade boy who wears a size medium’ or whatever it was, we thought if we included something like that,” he said.

They said most guests, if not all, participated. The couple collected about 70 backpacks filled with school supplies and recently delivered them to Booker T Washington Elementary.

It was an act of goodwill that is close to Kelli’s heart.

“I see that as well when the kids come and they don’t have the supplies that they need or a new backpack or new uniforms each year, and so that was a major factor in it. It’s so important that when the kids start school, excited to come to school, as silly as it seems, a new backpack can be what gets them excited,” she said.

“Being a teacher, when you have students that don’t have supplies and things like that, you take it into your own heart and feel the need to go and get that for them. So this will help teachers as well so they don’t have to reach into their own pockets to get some of these things.”

Matt couldn’t be more proud of his new bride.

“Doesn’t surprise me at all that she came up with this idea, knowing what she does with her classroom and how passionate she is about it. It was a really good thought she had, but it doesn’t surprise me at all that she came to this idea and followed through with it,” he said.

What’s next for the couple?

“Maybe something for a baby shower when that comes along,” Kelli laughed.

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