Picture a time when there are no gifts at Christmas. For many, the scene is unimaginable, but for some foster youth, it¿s a harsh reality.
This year, the McKinley Children¿s Center in San Dimas is working to lessen the pain, and it has a strong ally on its side ¿ former foster youth in Cal Poly Pomona¿s Renaissance Scholars program who are leading a toy drive.
For Rachel Ryan, a second-year sociology major and Renaissance Scholar, the holiday season was a time of unexpected surprises when she was growing up.
¿When we would wake up on Christmas morning and see gifts under the tree it made us feel like someone actually cared about us, because for so many years of our lives we never received presents,¿ Ryan says. ¿When someone has nothing, the littlest things can make a difference.¿
She says her experience inspired her to give back, adding that she wants to make another foster child feel special on Christmas.
¿It was definitely things like toy drives that helped to brighten my Christmas,¿ Ryan says. ¿I didn¿t really get a lot of toys, and drives like Toys for Tots really made my day.¿
Sara Gamez, coordinator for the Renaissance Scholars, says the impact a donation makes on a foster child during the holiday season is immeasurable. ¿The holidays for any foster youth are always tough, but just like any human being, receiving a gift of any kind always makes you smile and makes you feel special. Those who donate provide an opportunity to spread holiday joy to children and youth in foster care.¿
The annual Holiday Toy Drive runs through noon Friday, Dec. 16. The group is collecting unwrapped new toys, along with items that appeal to older foster youth, such as store gift cards, movie tickets and iTunes gift cards.
¿Some of the girls are requesting makeup kits or lotion kits from Bed Bath & Beyond,¿ Gamez says. ¿But any gift would be well received and hugely appreciated.¿
The Cal Poly Pomona community fulfills many Christmas dreams every year, and Gamez says that she expects this year will be no different.
¿Every year we are delighted by the generosity of individuals who donate, even in the midst of the tough economic times,¿ Gamez says.
For anyone who wishes to donate to the toy drive, drop boxes are located in the Bronco Bookstore; the Student Support & Equity Program main office, in Building 94, room 121; at the Cesar Chavez Center; and at University Housing Services, located in Building 59.
¿The holidays are about giving, and by giving to this cause you are helping to make a positive impact on the life of a foster youth,¿ Gamez says.
To learn more about the toy drive, download a copy of the flyer.
(Photo: Makeda Bostic and Rachel Ryan, a sophomore sociology major, sort through the donated toys Dec. 13.)