Orchard Knob Elementary became a scene of holiday excitement Wednesday afternoon as more than 600 students opened their Christmas surprises.

Fellowship of Christian Athletes students from Silverdale Baptist Academy were among those who adopted "Operation Orchard" as a holiday project, providing gifts with a personal touch for each Orchard Knob student. However, Orchard Knob officials say the real gift is one of time and attention.  Each Silverdale student is paired with an Orchard Knob student, and much of the day is spent with students from the two schools getting to know each other.

Etienne Easley, who is family partnership specialist at Orchard Knob said, "we're so appreciative of our friends at Silverdale. This is what it's all about. We have some great children here, and we love to see them smile." She added, "I told the Silverdale students, you'll never get more hugs than you will here today."

The Silverdale students say they're happy to be role models for the children who are seeking stability in their lives.

Sophomore Megan Jarrell said, "this is such a blessing to us. After we hand out the presents, we share praise and worship songs, and it is absolutely a day we love."

The event has become such a tradition, Silverdale graduates who are now in college make it a point to come back each Christmas to be a part of it.

Alexander Ioannidis graduated from Silverdale in 2016 and is now a junior at UTC. He comes back each year to be a part of this special day.

"I encourage my friends to donate and participate as well," he said. 

Although organizing a months-long campaign of acquiring donations and then sorting out, and delivering presents for 600 elementary students is a big job, the Silverdale students wouldn’t have it another way.