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Mitchell girl raises $1,200 to buy gifts for foster children

Taylor Hauck, of Mitchell, fills up his gas tank on pump 8, also known as “The Gift Pump,” on Friday afternoon at Arnie's at First & Foster in Mitchell. For Mitchell Christian senior Grace Garrels' senior project, she is trying to supply all foster kids in Mitchell with gifts this Christmas. All of the proceeds from Pump 8 from Nov. 20 through Monday, Nov. 27 is going to support her project. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Thanks to a local girl, many foster children in Mitchell won't be without Christmas presents this year.

Grace Garrels, 17, spent the past week fundraising to buy presents for children in the foster care system by collecting proceeds from a gas pump in Mitchell.

From Nov. 20 to Nov. 27, anybody who pumped gas at the Nov. 8 pump — called the "gift pump" due to its special present-like red wrapping — at Arnie's Gas Station in Mitchell helped a local foster child.

And it was a huge success, according to Garrels, a senior at Mitchell Christian School. She raised a little more than $1,200.

"I'm definitely happy with that," Garrels said, adding she was surprised she earned that high of amount.

While the project was part of a class assignment, Garrels had a more personal reason for choosing to help Mitchell's foster children.

Her 14-year-old brother, Marquis Reyelts, was in the foster system for seven years before the Garrels family adopted him. And he shared stories with his big sister of the few presents he received while in the system.

"So I thought it would be a cool idea to give presents," she said.

The local Department of Social Services provided Garrels with 25 names for foster children in Mitchell, along with their age and gender. Garrels then went Black Friday shopping and purchased as many gifts as possible, appropriate to the child, along with a bit of online shopping.

Once the remaining presents arrive, Garrels plans on hosting a wrapping party at Arnie's Gas Station before delivering to the social services office for hand-out.

"I enjoyed how it just took off really. I didn't think it was going to get $1,200. It really impacts something," Garrels said. " ... And it was just something I really wanted to do."