Christmas came early for one East Oktibbeha County Elementary School fourth grade class last week when the Mississippi State University softball team stopped by to play Santa for some very lucky students.
Brooke Dycus' class got a big surprise courtesy of Misty Flesher, the class' student teacher and a pitcher for the MSU softball team. Flesher, her teammates and her coaches decided to give back to the EOCES students by having a class Christmas party. The team brought a feast of pizza, cookies and cupcakes and a haul of presents that would rival that of St. Nick.
"This is my first year as a softball coach and I did not want to have a traditional Christmas party where we gave each other something because we all get so much," Head Coach Vann Studeman said. "So Misty had been talking all fall about her student teaching here at the school and talking about the kids and how much they had touched her heart. Our girls provided for all of this — this is all their own money. Misty did a Christmas wish list and we went and got the gifts."
Every student received four presents. There were baby dolls, nail polish and brand new shoes for the girls, and MSU hats and footballs signed by Head Football Coach Dan Mullen for the boys.
"Honestly this a dream come true. Being out here for 16-17 weeks with them and listening to them talk, hearing their stories and just everything about them, it just meant so much for my team to say that instead of having our Christmas party, we'll have it with your kids, because more than likely they need it more than we need it," Flesher said. "Without them, I would not have been able to do all this. We're trying to be the community's team. The students have told me this is the best Christmas they've ever had."
The joy and excitement was palpable in the room as the kids began to open their presents. Every student, athlete, coach and teacher had a smile ear-to-ear.
"We're super appreciative to have them here and just to have a partnership with Mississippi State and the Athletic Department and the softball team. We couldn't be happier to have them here, for the kids to have the experience," Dycus said.
Without the help of the MSU softball team, Christmas for many of the students may not have been so magical, but the experience was just as meaningful for the team.
"Being an athlete at Mississippi State, you are given so much. You are given the clothes that they're wearing, the scholarship and we feel it's an opportunity to give to them, to give back," Studeman said. "And I heard several of them saying that they were looking forward to seeing their faces when they opened the toy baby doll. It means a lot to give back to the community but it also means a lot to give rather than to receive."