'From the heart:' APA student inspires classmates to give back

Oct. 27—ANDERSON — As she bounded into Amy Wiles' third and fourth grade classroom, Gianna Peak could barely contain her excitement at the chance to introduce some visitors to her classmates.

Her enthusiasm, according to Wiles, is both infectious and effective in mobilizing support for her passion to help others in the community.

"She's very bubbly, and she's very caring," Wiles said. "Her personality just draws you in."

Since January, Peak has organized at least one project a month designed to raise funds or provide donations for nonprofit organizations in the community. She's donated bottled water to the Gathering of Queens to help veterans and elderly clients. She gathered and provided 200 pre-filled Easter eggs for a local Easter egg hunt. She also helped hand out more than 7,000 books during a giveaway.

Peak's efforts gained broad attention earlier this month, when she was featured in a segment on NBC Nightly News Kids Edition.

Her current service project involves raising funds to purchase hygiene packs to be donated to the Christian Center. As a way of raising the money, Peak organized a "dress-down" day at her school. For $1, students were allowed to abandon their traditional uniforms in favor of more casual attire.

"When she came to me with this idea, she came very organized and knew exactly how she wanted it to go," said Adam Fraley, principal at APA Elementary. "I didn't have to really ask for any clarification."

Peak, a fourth grader, said she discusses fundraising ideas with her mother and researches each potential recipient organization before committing to a service project on its behalf. Her drive to give back, she said, "comes from the heart."

"If I'm honest, I'm not the type of person who goes every single day and says, what am I going to do?" Peak said. "I usually just let it roll. Sometimes I like to come up with three ideas, then save two for next month and do one that month."

Wiles said nearly all of Peak's projects have components for involving her classmates and encouraging them to think about how they can give back and help those less fortunate than themselves.

"It says a lot about a little girl that this is something that she thinks about," Wiles said. "Gianna's vision is always to get her class involved. I think her mother has done a great job of leading her in the right direction, and she's been wanting to help with all (kinds of) different things."

Upon discovering that some children haven't been able to celebrate their birthdays with their own cakes, Peak set about raising money and assembling birthday cake kits to donate.

"It was maybe 50 little kits that she made, but that's going to help 50 people," Wiles said. "I think it's great."

Fraley said Peak's determination to see ideas through, as well as her ability to connect with her peers and the adults in her life, have been driving forces in building support for her causes.

"She's kind of a mini-adult herself," Fraley said with a laugh. "She knows how to speak with people. She knows how to be able to give a rationale, an explanation behind why she wants to do certain things. I do think her personality is infectious — the way that she knows how to put on her smile — and she's good about relating to people and to kids, too."

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