BY CAITLIN LYNCH '20
The Student Athletic Advisory Committee is hosting its fourth annual toy drive in conjunction with the Springfield, Holyoke and Van Wart offices of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families. SAAC gets a list from DCF of children in the area who would not otherwise receive holiday gifts, and Mount Holyoke students can sign up to sponsor them.
The SAAC Toy Drive began three years ago when DCF reached out to the Mount Holyoke athletics department via a personal connection with a staff member. Although the beginnings of this arrangement were more happenstance than other SAAC projects, the toy drive has exploded in popularity and proven beneficial for all parties involved. Associate Director of Athletics, Summer Hutcheson, said “the toy drive is one of the most bright spots of my year, and I know our department and student athletes feel the same way.” Hutcheson also noted that the drive makes a real impact, and each year when representatives from DCF arrive to collect the gifts produced by the SAAC Toy Drive, people are often moved to tears.
The toy drive this year is being overseen by SAAC representative Mia Barnes ’18. “It’s important for us as students with such an incredible opportunity to acknowledge that not everyone is fortunate enough to attend a college like ours,” says Barnes. “The children who we are providing gifts for are part of the community in which we live and I believe it is part of our responsibility as Mount Holyoke students to help others.”
Toy drives in years past have been very successful, serving around 200 children from the area each year. Students who have participated in the past have positive things to say about the experience, including Corina Willner ’17, who has worked on the toy drive for the past 3 years. “What I appreciate most about the toy drive is the ability to remind people that every kid has a wishlist, and that that wishlist looks strikingly similar to their own at that age,” says Willner. “Kids want bikes, music, basketballs ... Because we typically allow participants to choose their child, they look through and sometimes find a child who mirrors themselves, a girl who wants makeup, or a boy who wants nothing but art.”
Other Mount Holyoke students have expressed the importance of giving back to the community. “I participate in the toy drive because I believe that all children, regardless of family or life situation, should feel as though they are loved and cared for,” said Sarah Tobias ’17.
SAAC has a table set up on the second floor of Blanchard this week, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. daily, where students can sign up to receive a child’s name, age, clothing size and gift preferences. Gifts will be accepted from Dec. 5 to Dec. 10, allowing a window for shopping during Thanksgiving break. Students are encouraged to consider signing up in conjunction with a friend or two if they feel this project would be a financial burden. If students wish to participate but can’t make it to Blanchard while the table is set up, they can email firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a child assignment.