By MAGGIE GEBHARDT
Tails were wagging to the giggles and awes of children Friday at Humane Society of the High Plains near Hays.
For the third year, Wilson Elementary School first-graders took a field trip to the facility, where they hand-delivered donated food, leashes, collars, toys and more.
"We wanted to do a gift of giving," said Lisa Schreck, Wilson Elementary first-grade teacher. "My husband and I both think the Humane Society is a good cause, and I wanted to involve the children."
Schreck said she decided to make the field trip a tradition, with the goal in mind to exhibit the spirit of giving and love during Christmas.
"I want the kids to feel good about helping others," she said. "The idea is that Christmas time is for giving and that we can help others, even animals."
The 23 excited first-graders were divided into two groups and one after the other led on a tour by humane society manager Betty Hansen.
"They love to come out and see the animals that they're giving their donations to," Hansen said. "It really brings smiles to their faces to see where their gifts are going and who they're helping."
Due to the holiday season, many of the animal pens were empty, as families have been coming in to adopt a new addition in time for Christmas.
Laycie Haas, mother of first-grader Konner, brought her young daughter Khloe along on his field trip. Her family is in the process of finding a pet to adopt, so she wanted to join the first-graders as they toured the animals.
"It's good for Konner to understand that it's not all about presents at Christmas time," Haas said. "There are people and animals that need love, too.
"I'm glad that he can see a few animals that are less fortunate and that don't have a loving home," Haas said.
Konner and the rest of his classmates were able to pet and interact with the dogs who gleefully greeted the children. Currently, the facility is caring for several dogs, cats and a few kittens.
Schreck's daughter, K-State student Megan Zeman, decided to tag along with the class since she was in town on winter break.
"My mom told me her class was coming to the humane society, and I thought it sounded fun. So I wanted to help out," she said. "I think it's great that kids get to see that adoption is an option."
"A lot of the time, we talk about how much humans need our help, but it's also awesome to see that animals need help, too. It's a good way to give back."
Most of the first-graders seemed to be dog fans and made sure to pet every canine at the facility.
"The doggies are my favorite because they are fun," said first-grader Jenna.
"Dogs are the best because they protect people," said first-grader Mason. "I really like seeing the cats, too, though."
"I like dogs, cats and horses," first-grader Breckan said as she pet one of the dogs up for adoption. "We used to have dogs, and I love them."
Though the students were distracted by the barking and purring going on around them, they were sure not to forget they were there to help, too.
"We brought them a lot of really good stuff," Breckan said. "They will be so happy."
A large pile of donations sat in the front entrance of the building where the students had stacked their pet goodies upon arrival.
"It's all a good message," Schreck said. "For weeks, the kids have been bringing dog food, cat food, leashes, toys -- all of that."
"Teaching them the importance of appreciation and giving, especially around Christmas, is so important."
Give and appreciate the children did. After saying goodbye to their new furry friends, the students lined up by their pile of donations and chanted, "Two, four, six, eight. Who do we appreciate? The humane society."