573 Magazine Nov 2016 - Page 14

I was in high school I went with my parents to Nicaragua.  Because my father is from there, I wanted to see where he grew up!   My excitement left me when reality hit me in the face.   And it hit me pretty hard.....The devastation there was ho rrible.  Children were hungry, their feet hurt from not having shoes, they were sick with no medicine, and they were desperate.  Their parents were desperate.  I remember the hurt I felt seeing these kids.....I had never experienced that before.....I cried for days as we went around from town to town, giving away small toys we had brought as well as clothes and shoes.  That’s when it all dawned on me.  I would collect and deliver toys to those who has so very little. The next year I offered my students at Southeast Missouri State University bonus points for bringing in toys for kids.  I offered 5 bonus points per toy but told them they could only get a maximum of 20 points.  What I found was incredible!  Students were bringing in 30, 40, and even over 50 toys each!   At this point I had no idea who would get these toys…I stored them all in my basement at home.  The local news caught wind of this and did a story on my class. Pretty soon Student Santas came into existence.  We got a PO Box number and KFVS did another story…..The local newspapers also did stories.  We were then getting letters from all over the state from parents needing help for Christmas.   Each year we receive more and more letters.  These letters are so very sad…..Some coming directly from the children.  When I read a letter from a 5-year-old boy asking for a “nice meal” for Christmas my heart just about broke.  Student Santas now provides food to families who otherwise would have very little to eat over the holidays.  This is now such a community event.  Families help in delivering these gifts personally.  We give toys, clothes, shoes, bedding, school supplies, coats, etc. to children who would otherwise have nothing.  Last year we “adopted” over 100 families!   Student Santas also helps two local elementary schools with gifts.  We work directly with the teachers and parent liaisons in helping the kids.