3rd grade students in Naples see the beach for the first time

3rd grade students in Naples see the beach for the first time

(WBBH/NBC NEWSCHANNEL) Imagine living near the beach, but not knowing the feeling of sand between your toes, or a wave breaking over your feet.

More than 40 students from Florida's Parkside Elementary don't have to any longer.

Volunteers from Leadership Collier visited the school a few weeks ago and were shocked to learn most of the students had never gone to the beach. A few members started fundraising independently, and on Thursday a bus full of third-graders rolled into Naples' Lowdermilk Park.

"Some of them are nervous because they don't know what to expect," Principal Tamie Stewart said. "Often, our families don't have the means or the transportation to take their kids and give them some experiences."

More than 97 percent of students at Parkside Elementary are on a free or reduced lunch plan.

Wrestling with anticipation, the students walked off of the bus to meet a line of volunteers greeting them with high-fives and cheers. Worried faces soon melted into smiles and laughter.

Once they were all gathered, Lt. Aaron Weiny from the North Collier Fire Rescue Department asked, "Anyone never seen the beach?"

Most hands flew up. Then, the eager group filed onto the sand to an obstacle course, shelling lesson, and sand castle building contest.

"For the children, and also for the volunteers, to see their faces is just incredible," volunteer Teri Evans said.

'Oohs' and 'aahs' could be heard from the kids as waves washed over their bare feet, taking advantage of the ankle-deep water limit they were being afforded.

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