“There are many kids not getting anything for Christmas, and we want to fix that,” said event coordinator and founder Jennifer Icaza-Gast, instructor of communication studies at Southeast Missouri State University. “Our purpose is to get as many toys to as many children as we can.”
Icaza-Gast started the toy drive in 2004. Student Santas was started within the Department of Communication Studies with the student organization, COMMrades. Icaza-Gast would give extra credit to students who brought in toys. Other professors began following suit because they liked the idea. Now, many students in other departments, as well as other members of the community, participate in the toy drive. Student Santas has become a recognized student organization at Southeast.
“We get letters from all over the state of Missouri from parents who are in desperate need of help. Because of so many letters, we run out of toys and need monetary donations. We will go on shopping sprees to Wal-Mart and completely clean out their Barbie section,” Icaza-Gast said.
Last year, Student Santas sold Cardinal baseball tickets to raise money for the toy drive. The Annual “Sweatin’ With Santa” 5K Walk/Run was held last year to raise funds as well. More than 300 people participated in the walk/run, and McDonald’s and Jimmy John’s helped to sponsor the 5K. Arby’s also made a monetary donation to Student Santas.
This year, Student Santas is putting up posters in My Daddy’s Cheesecake so members of the community can learn more about Student Santas. Student Santas has also received $5,000 from McDonald’s.
The Student Santas toy drive has already helped 700 kids this year, which is more than half of their goal of sending toys to 1,500 children.
Student Santas have delivered toys to more than 8,000 children since the organization started seven years ago. Student Santas accepts new unwrapped toys and monetary donations. Toys can be donated at My Daddy’s Cheesecake, Innovative Orthodontics or Prompt Care in Jackson. Monetary donations can be sent to: Student Santas, P.O. Box 641, Cape Girardeau, Mo., 63702. Donations will be accepted through Dec. 25.
For more information, contact Jennifer Icaza-Gast at firstname.lastname@example.org.