AVID has put on a toy drive for kids at Howe Avenue Elementary School for 23 years, and every year it means something different to everyone involved.
For Christopher Delacruz, the toy drive has been a part of his life longer than most.
“I used to go to Howe Avenue myself, so I actually got a toy when I went there,” said Delacruz.
Once receiving, and now giving, the annual toy drive has an even deeper meaning to Delacruz. He likes knowing that the toys will go to use and the kids will enjoy them for many years.
“It helped me see their point of view, and it really helps to know that I’m providing the kids with toys that are going to last pretty much their whole childhood,” said Delacruz.
Seeing things come full circle each year makes giving the gifts and watching the kids happily open them, that much more joyful.
This year AVID’s goal was to cover kindergarten through third grade, which is about 600 students. The toy drive is a lot of work, and preparation starts as early as September.
“It’s actually like a semester-long project,” said AVID teacher Leigh Sumers.
The project starts off with planning which teachers will allow boxes in their room, building boxes and ensuring that the toy drive is advertised everywhere possible. The most interactive and fun aspect of the project comes in December when students collect, wrap and finally deliver the gifts to the kids.
In addition to the joy of giving, AVID students learn about how there are always people to help.
“It’s kind of easy to be stuck in your own little bubble and not think about people just down the road from you and how much need there really is,” said Sumers.
“That giving back piece is so valuable and it’s good to start that when you’re young so that you can continue that through your lifetime.”
As a kid, Sumers always participated in Toys for Tots, and it left a big impression. Now she leads AVID every year in a cycle of giving that’s inspirational to all.
“I have amazing kids and Rio has really come out,” said Sumers. “It’s amazing we have so many presents.”
All the work paid off when AVID passed out toys during the final week of school before break.
Whether it is Delacruz and his journey from receiving to donating, or Sumers and her journey from donating to leading, the toy drive certainly is a gift that keeps on giving.