Multiple student organizations donate toys, items to charities for holidays

Allie Gruszkiewicz, Staff Writer

A group of young students anxiously awaits. “Are the high schoolers here yet?” they ask.

A bus pulls up in front of the school, loaded with teenagers bearing gifts. As the kids open their packages, their faces light up.

This holiday season, Bearden student groups are giving back to their community by giving toys to underprivileged children.

As in past years, Bearden’s Leadership classes went to elementary schools in east Knoxville to mentor students and throw a holiday party on Dec. 5. This year, they went to Belle Morris and Beaumont elementary schools.

For Beaumont, the Leadership students provided each child in the class they mentor with a toy, and for Belle Morris, each child received a T-shirt. Most of these children are economically disadvantaged; Leadership teacher Mrs. Rebecca Nutter said that some children even arrive at school without shoes.

“If they don’t have shoes on, they definitely aren’t getting anything for Christmas,” Mrs. Nutter said. “So it’s just fun to provide that for them.”

Beyond providing presents, the Leadership program also hopes to be an example of successful high school students, as well as showing these kids that there are people who care about them.

“We hope the benefit goes well beyond the toy that they get to open,” Mrs. Nutter said.

The Leadership program is not the only one that is collecting items for the community. For the first time, the Bearden dance team is currently collecting toys, money, and other items for middle schoolers at the Tennessee School for the Deaf (TSD).

These items will go to a school “store” where students can use money or credits earned for doing well in school can pick presents for their families. Because TSD is a boarding school, the holiday season is a special opportunity for them to see their families.

Dance team member Ashley Williams said that their involvement with charity is designed to match this year’s jazz song, which is about making someone else’s day better. Their choreographer challenged them to reach out and be more than a dance team to their community.

“When we had this opportunity, we were so excited to take it,” Williams said.

The dance team is looking for small gifts for around $5 for kids of all ages and adults, which can be dropped off in the aerobics room and the East and West Malls. They will also get the opportunity to deliver the gifts and spend a day at TSD.

DECA is looking to contribute to charity as well. Continuing past traditions, DECA is working with the Mission of Hope drive.

Donating to lower-income families, DECA is looking for new toys, toiletries, hygiene items, and cash donations, which can all be dropped off in the Hall of Memories.

“I’m hoping it will help those families that are less fortunate come together and feel the Christmas spirit, and have those opportunities that others have,” DECA president Andrew Bumpas said.

Bearden’s National Honor Society is also collecting items, including toys and gifts for children as well as other groups such as retirement homes and the mentally ill.

Working with an angel tree donation drive, NHS president Bennett Croft is in the process of collecting tags to distribute to members of NHS. This is the first year that NHS is involved with an angel tree, as well as many other volunteer opportunities.

With an angel tree drive, the foundation sponsors individuals and dedicates an ornament to list their needs, and someone who chooses that ornament can provide those items. These can include clothing, children’s toys, and Walmart gift cards among other helpful items.

With all of these charity drives, any Bearden student can find a way to give back to the community and capture the holiday spirit.

“We hope that we can raise awareness,” Williams said. “We are excited for the chance to make an impact in their lives.”