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The Secret Santa program at Litchville-Marion High School, founded by math teacher Dave Handt, lets every student experience the joy of giving.

The Joy of Giving

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The reward of gift-giving is priceless and one high school math teacher wants every student to be able to experience the joy of giving.

Dave Handt, a math teacher at Litchville-Marion High School in Marion, ND, began organizing a Secret Santa gift exchange at his school a few years ago. Handt started the activity at the high school by placing a $10 bill in an envelope along with a student’s name. Students then drew an envelope, purchased a gift for the student named in the envelope, wrapped it, and placed it under the school tree to be opened the day before winter break. Many students even go above the $10 amount, using their own money toward a gift for a fellow student.

In 2018, Choice Bank granted a wish that gave the Litchville-Marion School District the resources to extend the Secret Santa program into the elementary school. With the assistance of the Wishing Well program, all students in Pre-K through 12th grade were able to receive a gift and experience the joy of giving that many had not been able to feel before.

“The experience of our high school students in being able to bring the joy of the season to the hearts and faces of our elementary was a lifelong lesson in caring and love,” Dave said.

Dave was intent on making Secret Santa an annual occurrence to share the feelings and meaning of the holiday season to all students and staff each year. Our Wishing Well has been supporting this wish every year since 2018, providing the resources for everyone to give a gift.

We were excited to contribute once again to Dave’s Secret Santa program in 2021. This year Gaige Dunn, Ag and Business Banker in our LaMoure location, tagged along to facilitate the Secret Santa event.

Choice presenting check to Dave
The Choice Bank Wishing Well has been supporting Dave Handt’s Secret Santa program since 2018. The photo above is from the 2020 check presentation.

All the students are gathered into the gym and given their gifts one by one. The anticipation and excitement build as each student receives their gift, eagerly waiting to open it once everyone has been given their gift. Once they get the queue to open their gifts, wrapping paper is flying in the air. While the joy of the new gifts is electric, the most powerful part of this day is how Dave’s efforts can bring together an entire school district to celebrate community and forge new connections among students.

“It was such a fun time, a lot of giving and cheer,” Gaige said. “It’s so good for the kids and they all connect. All the students are in the gym together, it’s a pretty intimate setting. The kids are interacting with the high school students, and the high school kids see that joy and fun in the younger kids.”

All 138 students in the Litchville-Marion High School and Elementary schools received a gift, even the school staff got presents too! Dave strives to give every child a memorable Christmas, and a new addition to this year’s Secret Santa festivities was bringing gifts to the children in local preschools.

Secret Santa Wishing Well
In 2021, Dave extended the Secret Santa program into the local preschools.

Dave’s passion is to ensure that every student experience the feeling of giving, regardless of income level. This gesture of gift-giving is incredibly meaningful as many of the students come from low-income households and may have never felt what it is like to give before. His hope is that the Secret Santa program encourages students to share the gift of giving as they progress through life.

“If we can provide that tiny bit of caring it will go a long way to having them feel the spirit of the holidays,” Dave said.

If you are interested in supporting the Litchville-Marion School Districts Secret Santa program, you can mail your donation to:

Litchville-Marion High School
Secret Santa Fund
104 2nd St
Marion, ND 58466


The Choice Bank Wishing Well is now accepting wishes for 2022! Ready to cast yours? Visit choicewishingwell.com and let us know who you would like to help out in your community.

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