Roland-Story fifth-graders had an opportunity to learn first-hand about paying it forward this spring.

The students in Rachel Wilkinson’s class applied for a Project Jack grant and received $200 to spend on items for the animal shelter in Ames.

“They researched the wish list for the shelter, and when we had the list we applied for the grant,” Wilkinson said.

Some of the students then did research on Amazon and other store sites, and the class decided it would get the most for its money using Amazon.

“They ordered all the stuff and sent a big thank you to the Iowa Realtors Association,” Wilkinson said. “I was very proud of all of them, but especially my homeroom kiddos who took point on the project and did a majority of the work without any help from me.”

That notion of making a difference in the lives of others — including the lives of animals — is exactly what “Pay it Forward with Project Jack,” the grant program that funded the local project, is all about.

Jack Lindaman was 6 years old in 2010, when he died from spinal muscular atrophy. A student in the Quad Cities area, Lindaman would have been a seventh-grader this year.

Lindaman liked making people happy and was “a positive light to those around him,” despite his health issues, according to the Project Jack website.

Two years ago, each person in Lindaman’s class at Alan Shepard Elementary School received $100 to pay it forward. With no stipulations on how to use the money, projects ranged from donations to charities to passing out roses to strangers.

Last year, the grant, which is funded by the Realtor Foundation of Iowa, spread to include students outside Lindaman’s hometown.

“This group has a big heart and it’s been great to see that show through this project,” Wilkinson said, regarding her students.