INDIANAPOLIS — Providence Cristo Rey High School is working to relieve stress that could be weighing students down — the stress that their parents can't afford to buy them anything this holiday season.
For Dale Illingsworth, Christmas hasn't been the same since he lost his wife a little more than a decade ago.
"The last 12 years, I've seen a lot of bad experiences and I don't want to have to deal with that," Illingsworth said.
He's talking about his six children who have shared his struggle since losing their mother.
"You want them to enjoy life," he said.
Through the Christmas Assistance Program at Providence Cristo Rey High School, Illingsworth won't have to worry come Dec. 25 or any time during the holiday break.
"The comfort of knowing someone else cares, I feel like that is what this program provides," Illingsworth said.
The goal of the program is to make sure on Christmas Day, no child is left empty-handed.
"Ninety-five percent of our students qualify for free and reduced lunch, so we know there is a need for this," Margie Crooks said.
At least 60 families will get gifts through the program, but that's not all. Those families will also get a Christmas meal and extra food to help parents pull through winter break.
"Part of our mission is to help our students, not only academically, but spiritually and emotionally," Crooks said.
Crooks believes what goes on outside the classroom impacts school performance and pouring positivity into students helps that process.
"A lot of them are helping their families as well as they might have a job after school," she said.
Illingsworth agrees it all works hand-in-hand — help a student's home life and it all makes a difference.
"Most kids have anxiety or panic attacks because they are worried does my mom have to work too hard or does my dad have to work too hard," he said. "That takes a lot of burden off of them and the stress at home."