Students help spread cheer, toys on South Whidbey

South Whidbey High School students from Sharyl Harless’s leadership class take a break from gathering gifts during third period. Students, staff and faculty participated in a toy drive to aide South End families this winter with Holiday House.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
South Whidbey High School students from Sharyl Harless’s leadership class take a break from gathering gifts during third period. Students, staff and faculty participated in a toy drive to aide South End families this winter with Holiday House.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

LANGLEY — Kids are helping kids, and parents, on South Whidbey this week.

South Whidbey High School and Langley Middle School participated in toy drives to support Holiday House, a program by Readiness To Learn Foundation. The all-volunteer nonprofit provides toys and gifts to families on South Whidbey who can’t afford them.

Officials from the foundation estimated more than 350 kids on the South End will receive a gift from Holiday House, thanks in large part to the schools’ toy drives.

“The schools have always been really proactive in being part of the toy drive,” said Ann Johnson, Readiness To Learn’s training and development coordinator. “It’s a great leadership activity for the kids because they plan it from start to finish.”

The donations were organized and promoted by students at both schools.

At the high school, the leadership class runs the event. At LMS, a combined effort between the school’s leadership class and the Builders Club gathers the gifts.

“The students take it over, they design it,” said SWHS leadership teacher Sharyl Harless.

The 28 students in her third-period leadership class collected boxes from each classroom at the high school on Wednesday. Their toy drive lasted one week and collected several packing boxes worth of gifts.

Harless credited four students in particular for coordinating the program at the school: freshman Parker Collins, and sophomores Trey Adams, Wyatt Schuchman and Nick Bennett.

“We just volunteered for it because we wanted to make a difference,” Schuchman said as he arranged toys in one of the boxes.

Those four created the promotions for their peers and encouraged the school to join in the season of giving. Leadership students made posters, wrote the daily announcement, suggested a “gift bingo” sheet for each box and the cookie party incentive.

“We basically did everything in one day,” Schuchman said.

Each box had a grid for bingo. There were age ranges and genders to encourage classes to cover gifts from toddler to teenager.

A competition was also created to encourage the gift giving, and the class with the most presents won a cookie party during third period Friday. Bill Patterson’s class won the cookie party.

Johnson had her first contact with Holiday House while in the high school leadership class six years ago. Now she makes sure that tradition remains for the Falcons to help their community.

“I’ve seen a lot of generosity in the community,” Johnson said. “It may be through volunteer time, it may be through donating a toy, it may be through donating money. It may be through offering cookies and refreshments.”

Down the road, the Cougars of LMS were busy gathering toys and trinkets, too.

Their present push ended Friday, though by Wednesday there were two large boxes full of gifts. Candy Land, puzzles, a hopscotch mat, Ballerina Barbie, a basketball and a Lego racer will all go to a young person on South Whidbey who may not otherwise have a present under the tree.Ben Watanabe / The Record | Donavin Nerison and Joe Davies, both sixth grade students, hoist the Holiday House toy drive box at Langley Middle School. Leadership and Builders Club students like Rohini Mikkelsen, Kinsey Eager, Cassie Neil and Sophia Pisana, holding some of the gifts, promoted the drive.

“Giving back without receiving is the most important thing I think they learn,” said Debbie Daumen, the Builders Club advisor.

The Cougars’ toy drive was promoted in the school’s daily bulletin, on posters and by word of mouth, thanks to the students.

The Builders Club donated $200 to purchase wrapping paper, ribbons and bows, too. A coordinated effort was needed by the 30 Cougars in leadership and the club to run the toy drive.

“They are solely in charge of it,” Daumen said.

Students from LMS also decorated Holiday House to make it festive.

“It’s a long-standing tradition that they offer that gift to us,” Johnson said.

Holiday House will accept donations of any kind until Thursday, Dec. 22. The store is open, and Johnson said people are invited to take a peek at the winter wonderland they created inside B-pod at South Whidbey Primary Campus open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. There are also toy drop boxes across South Whidbey, and Johnson also said boxes marked “Toys for Tots” will benefit South End kids.

“We make sure everybody who needs gifts and connects with us gets what they need,” Johnson said.


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