Students in Kelly Basdekis' third grade class at the E.H. Slaybaugh Elementary School in Egg Harbor Township learned recently that showing a little kindness can surprise you in a good way.

The students, who organized a coin drive for their participation in the school's Random Act of Kindness Week, decided to donate the $161.81 they collected to use toward the purchase of protective vests for the Police Department's K-9 Unit.

The students know all about the value of protective vests through their association with K-9 Shooter, who was wounded while on duty last November. The students sent get-well cards to the dog as a class project after he was released from the hospital, and have kept tabs on his recovery.

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"They knew a police officer was going to visit the class to collect their donation, but it was a surprise when Shooter actually came in," said Basdekis, who has 25 students in her class. "They were ecstatic."

Shooter is healthy now but retired from active duty.

Lt. Robert Gray, the Police Department's public information officer, said this was the first time they received a donation specifically from a grade-school class. K-9 Officer Lt. Michael Bordonaro, Shooter's partner, decided the pair would personally thank the students.

Basdekis said she is proud of the compassion and kindness exhibited by the students. Being able to meet Shooter in person and being thanked by a police officer meant a lot to them, she said.

"You could tell it was a very special moment for them," said Basdekis, who has been teaching at the school for seven years. "It was one of those neat moments you get to experience as a teacher when you see your students make the connection between what they do and the ending result."

The students spent about a week in mid-February bringing in coins for their classroom "kindness jar." It even turned into a money lesson, as the students had to add up the pennies, nickles, dimes and quarters to get the final total, she said.

Deciding as a class what to do with the funds also resulted in a lesson of the value of giving back, she said.

The donation from the students is very much appreciated by the police department, said Gray. There are currently three active K-9s in the department and one in training, he said.

He called their efforts "a job well done."

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