Thanks to the hard work of some Salish Secondary students, the Cloverdale Christmas Hamper program will be able to give out 200 more toys to needy families this winter.
In November, four leadership students in Michelle Young’s class decided to take on a toy drive to support the Cloverdale Christmas Hamper. The hamper program had run short on toys last year, and wanted to be able to offer more selection for families this season.
Grade 10 students Thanuri Egodawatta, Jared Romea and Aryan Verma, along with Grade 11 student Shana Nursoo volunteered to organize the toy drive. They had already been thinking about hosting a toy drive when hamper volunteer Jen Temple approached the school with the idea.
“When I presented [Temple’s request] to the class, we already had that small group of kids who were like ‘Yes, we want to do it,’” Young said. “They just ran with it.”
For Nursoo, taking on the project just made sense.
“It’s definitely worth it for the reason that it actually makes a difference,” she said.
She understood the impact that programs like the Cloverdale Christmas Hamper could have for families, as her family had used programs like it when they first immigrated to Canada. Being able to get toys at Christmas helped make the holidays extra special.
In the four weeks leading up to the toy drive, the students had to advertise in the school as well as liaise with Temple to get the word out to the community. They also had to organize student volunteers for the night, figure out what equipment was needed and make sure there were enough boxes to hold the toys.
Sometimes, the task seemed overwhelming.
“At first we were feeling discouraged because it was hard to send the message and hard to get students involved,” Nursoo said.
But eventually, the word started to get out online, on the radio, in the paper. And on Dec. 6 at 3:30 p.m., when Young’s leadership class waited in the cold outside the school for donations to come in, they weren’t disappointed.
Over 200 toys were collected during the toy drive, and $1,500 in donations and gift cards came in. Members from the local RBC branch were on hand to help sort toys during the drive, and also donated an additional $1,000 to “help inspire the kids” who were putting on the drive, Temple said. Turkey’s Party Makers had a truck on site to deliver the collected toys, and United Way had come with hot chocolate for volunteers and donors.
“I think that was also important to the kids, to see that the community knew what we were doing here in the school, and they were standing there being cold with them,” Young said. “I was really impressed with that, and that made me quite happy.”
The drive didn’t end at 6 p.m., when the students finally went home. Another $600 in gift cards were brought to Pacific Community Church (which hosts the Cloverdale Christmas Hamper) after the drive ended.
“Maybe they didn’t get out to us during those three hours, but it inspired them to bring in $600 for the event after the fact,” Young said. “I quite liked that, that we inspired the community to think about this and to sort of plan to donate.”
Both Temple and Young said they were “so proud” of the students who worked to put the drive together.
“They were just the most amazing … young people,” Temple said. “They were excited and enthusiastic and it was an honour to be able to work with them, it really was.”
“It wasn’t just that they did it and they got through it,” she said. “They felt like they had accomplished something. And that’s the feeling that I hope they take away from all of these events: that it’s worthwhile and they have power to do these things and make a difference.”
And as for next year?
“This is definitely something we should continue with,” Verma, one of the leadership students, said. “Especially considering that our school is still new and we’re trying to develop a culture.”