A class of Toms River East High School students are bringing the magic of the Christmas season to a class of first graders at Cedar Hill Elementary School in Montville as part of an annual writing project.

The first graders in Montville are sure to have their spirits brightened with these letters after being told recently by a substitute teacher that Santa Claus isn't real.

Casey Daniel's journalism class at Toms River High School East are writing letters to these children to bring them the magic and joy of the Christmas season.

The Elf Letters are an annual writing assignment her students are more than happy to be apart of every year around this time.

"My mom used to do this project with her English classes and another English teacher from Toms River High School North and they used to write letters for me and my siblings and elementary schools around the township," Daniel said. "As I got older I started to help my mom with her students and when I had my own children I asked my classes if they would be interested in keeping the tradition alive and writing these letters and they jumped right on board."

The Montville students were selected through a mutual friend of Daniel's.

"There's a mutual connection between a parent in the class and one of my friends and he connected us and we offered to write as we're writing for our community as well," Daniel said. "We're happy to write for anybody who requests a letter."

Daniel said each of her students every year brings all kinds of skill sets to the table and they work really well together.

"Each one of them has a strength that they bring to this project," Daniel said. "I have super-super creative kids and then I have kids who say 'I might not be the most creative but I have beautiful handwriting, let me write on the paper' and I have other students that say 'I can look it over and edit it' and they just all bring something to this project."

Her students have an abundance of Christmas spirit each year at this time to take part in making a young child's holiday season.

"My students get to feel like kids again and they enjoy the process and it just always feels good to give back during the holiday season," Daniel said.

Her students take information filled out on a sheet by the parents of the children receiving the letters and use those details to pen the perfect letter.

"It has the full-name of the child, the age, any nicknames, their friends, something good they did, something bad they did, the gifts they wanted last year, the gifts they want this year and anything exciting happening in their life or any pets they have or activities that they're involved in," Julia, High School East Journalism student, said. "It's a very personalized process. Each child gets the letter to be as magical as it can be."

The students will often get special requests from the parents with multiple young children.

"We've received requests when there's a younger kid with an older sibling and parents ask if we could write to the older sibling as well," Bella, High School East Journalism student, said.

Every student who works on this project is affected by the assignment in a different but similar way.

"I love it, it's my favorite part of the class and I look forward to it every year," Julia said. "I just think it's so special to make a kid feel so happy and for them to open up this magical letter and feel excited for the Christmas season and be so happy...it makes me feel to happy and luck to be apart of that."

"The best part about Christmas is giving and this definitely brings us back to when we were younger and people kept that memory alive for us. Christmas was so special for us and it's so heartwarming to be able to do that for other kids," Bella said.

"It feels great and it's really good to bring the spirit of Christmas back to life and writing these letters brings back the joy of Christmas," Kim, High School East Journalism student, said.

"Around this time of year, keeping that spirit alive for the younger kids makes it more magical and being able to be the person that gives them that feeling is just amazing," Mallory, High School East Journalism student, said.

"When I was younger I would have loved to receive a letter like this because this time of year is really one of my favorite things to experience and to have that opportunity to write these letters to younger kids so that they can embrace the true spirit of the holidays and feel the way that I felt when I was younger makes me happy," Elena, High School East Journalism student, said.

The superintendent said nothing more on the matter and didn't release the name of the substitute teacher.

The teacher apparently tried to debunk all manner of holiday characters including Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and Elf on a Shelf.

A north pole source tells our newsroom that Santa Claus is working hard with his elves to get gifts ready for Christmas, and he's checking his list twice to see who is naughty and nice, so everyone out there should be on their best behavior.

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