Families with children from the Logan Neighborhood will congregate in Cataldo for CCASL’s biggest event of the year: Winter Wonderland on Saturday.
For the last three weeks, CCASL has hosted the Giving Tree in Crosby where students, staff and faculty could stop by and pick a tag with the name of a child in the Logan Neighborhood. All of the children on the tags are mentored by a Gonzaga student or are the sibling of a mentee. Each tag had the gender and age of the child, a warm item they needed and a toy they wanted. Students then went out and purchased the warm items and toys and donated them to the Giving Tree.
“The Giving Tree is a three-week- long gift drive for the Campus Kids and Connections mentees and their siblings,” said Campus Kids Program Assistant Mark Ward. “Each mentee’s family fills out a ‘Warmest Wishes’ form for all of the family members under 18 with their preference of a warmest item such as socks or a scarf and a toy under $15 … There are about 350 children that will receive a gift this year. Winter Wonderland is a big event at the end of the semester where the children receive their gifts, meet Santa and Spike, create crafts such as snowflakes and picture frames and enjoy the Christmas season with their whole family.”
Usually there are a few tags left which CCASL has a fund to cover the gifts, but this year the GU community stepped up and all the tags were taken in the first two weeks.
“This year the Giving Tree has been a huge success,” Ward said. “We were able to give away all our tags within two weeks. The Gonzaga community has been so generous and giving this year. There have been many people that have taken multiple tags and bought gifts for several children.”
The student employees of CCASL worked with Ward and Middle School Specialist Zachary Reuter to sit in Crosby each day and advertised. Ward and Reuter did their part monitoring and coordinating the gifts and recipients, while the student employees had contact with the people donating the gifts.
“As a student leader I sat at the Giving Tree table for a shift each week,” Marissa Harvey, activity coordinator, said. “It was our job to encourage students to sign up for a tag. As a work study [employee] it was my job to check off gifts as they came in, to make sure both pieces were returned and that it was what the child had asked for. We put the gifts in a bag and labeled it accordingly.”
The names of students were put into a database with their contact information in connection with the tag they had selected. The warm items ranged from socks to scarves to hats and the toys ranged from Angry Birds apparel to Taylor Swift’s “Red” CD to a baby doll with a stroller.
The children who are engaged in Campus Kids and Connections, which are CCASL 2 programs, will not only receive their gifts on Saturday but also do crafts and eat food.
“Hundreds of children are served by this program each year, most of which come from low-income backgrounds,” Reuter said. “The purpose is to provide a warm clothing item [like] slippers, mittens, scarf … and a toy that the child has requested.”
All the gifts are now in and have been wrapped by staff and faculty this week.
“Watching people bring back their gifts for kids has been wonderful as well,” Harvey said.
The presents will be given to the mentees and their siblings on Saturday during Winter Wonderland in Cataldo Hall.
“There are crafts, a place for family pictures, food, and most of all each family takes home a bag of gifts for their kids,” Harvey said.
“We have crafts, face painting, raffles, photo booth, Santa, and, of course, the gift giving [which is] the best part,” said Activities Coordinator Emily Luse. “Every child gets a gift and warm item, no matter how many siblings they have. We had a tag for everyone.”
The CCASL 2 employees are each on different committees to make sure Winter Wonderland is a success.
“[The day-off crew will] pick out the crafts, set them up that day, choose the music, make the backdrop and props for the photo station, as well as just general decorations for the event,” Luse said.
“My role in the Winter Wonderland event is to oversee the Campus Kids/Connections student leaders as they plan the crafts and entertainment for the event,” Ward said. “Also, I oversee the gift wrapping process with Zac [Reuter] and Mary Kelley from CCASL and make sure that the families are aware of the Winter Wonderland event.”
Today is the last day of wrapping the gifts in the Huetter Mansion and then the event on Saturday will conclude a month of planning and gathering. The CCASL employees expressed their appreciation of the contributions made by the GU community.
“I just want to be sure and thank the GU community for their overwhelming support of the Giving Tree and CCASL,” Reuter said. “I would also encourage them to sponsor a child next year if they did not this year.”
Ward said that the “Ask Professor Dan Show” made a generous donation to the event, which helped make the Giving Tree possible.
“We are beyond grateful for the generosity of the Gonzaga community in helping to make this awesome day possible for our kids,” she said.