Cal State Long Beach will bring trinkets and playthings to local foster families this holiday season through the 20th annual Bob Rodgers’ Cherishing the Children Toy Drive.
Anyone wishing to contribute can drop off new unwrapped toys to the various toy box collection sites around campus.
“I do think toy drives are good for the community and the less fortunate,” undeclared freshman Lesley Francia said. “It makes me glad to see my school helping out in such a big way.”
The annual drive was named after Bob Rodgers, a media production specialist for the university, after his passing in 2013. Rodgers worked on campus for more than 30 years and volunteered to play Santa Claus at the Cherishing Children’s Holiday Party for 15 years. For individuals who don’t have the time to shop for toys, donations will be accepted and the shopping will be done by event volunteers.
Those donating money will receive a list of items purchased and a copy of the receipt for tax purposes.
“This cash helps us to purchase toys where there are toy gaps in age and gender, and also to purchase $15 Target gift cards for the older teenage children,” said Stafford Cox, instructional technology support services faculty member.
Despite the drive’s longstanding presence on campus, not many students were aware of its existence.
“I did not know this event was happening but I’m glad to hear about [it].” Kathya Leyva, senior anthropology major said. “It’s for a really good cause and I’m sure more people would participate if they knew about it.”
The toy drive is hosted by the President’s Office and the university’s staff council.
“It’s a blessing to be able to bring a little happiness into the lives of the children and foster parents,” Cox said.
At the party each child receives their own wrapped gift from Mr. and Mrs.Claus, a goodie bag and refreshments. They also have the opportunity to play a few games.
The committee works with the Long Beach Department of Children and Family Services to bring between 100 and 125 children to the event.
“Playing Santa Claus is more fun than a person should be allowed to have,” said Danny Thompson, College of Education faculty member. “I love when children see me in my Santa costume for the first time. Their eyes widen and their smiles lighten the room.”
Thompson has volunteered for the role the last 5 years and Denise Davis, campus swim instructor, has served as Mrs. Claus for all 20 years. Davis helped start the annual toy drive in 1997 with Bob Rodgers.
“Bob is really missed across campus,” Cox said. “He was a tireless volunteer and well-respected. I will always remember his story about being on the Johnny Carson show at Christmas with about 20 other professional Santa Claus’s.”
Gifts will be collected between now and Dec. 11 to be distributed at the Cherishing the Children event, which will be held on Dec. 14 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at The Pointe, inside the Walter Pyramid.
According to Kristin Bonetati, event coordinator and licensing manager for the 49er Shops, the toys are wrapped by staff volunteers and then given out at the event, which hosts local foster families with children from 1 to 15 years old.
Donations will be open until Dec. 18 and be donated to the Long Beach Fire Department’s Spark of Love Toy Drive.