Teachers and students at Bethlehem-Center Senior High School went all out this holiday season to collect toys for several children’s organizations, managing to fill a bus with some 700 donated items.
In previous years, the Beth-Center student council and several faculty members organized a toy drive, but only managed to collect a modest number of toys. This year, the student council, with the help of biology teacher Jill Matiyasic and other teachers, encouraged the entire student body to participate.
Christopher Lacey, Beth-Center student council president, thought of the idea after learning of a need for children’s toys at the Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh.
“My mom volunteered at the Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh and saw that most of the toys in the toy room were older or damaged,” Lacey said. “I thought, since I was elected president of student council this year, we could do a toy drive with the whole school.”
The toy drive, which also benefited Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and the Ronald McDonald House started Nov. 27, the day the students returned from Thanksgiving break, and lasted until Wednesday. Students who donated a toy were allowed to participate in two “activity days” the week before winter break as a small incentive.
“We had almost a full participation rate,” Matiyasic said. “For students who couldn’t afford to bring in a gift, we had teachers donate in their names.”
Lacey, Matiyasic and the toy drive organizers expected a few boxes of toys to send to the children’s hospital, but the donations kept pouring in from the school of about 400 students. Lacey received some help from the Make-A-Wish Foundation after contacting the Ronald McDonald House. The senior never expected such an overwhelming turnout.
“I was really surprised,” Lacey said. “The students don’t always participate, but this really got them motivated.”
After nearly a month of accepting donations, Beth-Center teachers packed nearly 700 toys and loaded the boxes Wednesday onto a bus donated by Pryor Bus Lines to transport them to the Ronald McDonald House.
Patients at the Children’s Hospital will receive the gifts when Santa Claus visits on Christmas, and other toys will go to the Children’s Institute.
“It grew well beyond what we expected,” Matiyasic said. “We’re proud of the students, because teenagers sometimes get a bad rep, but they did some real good here.”
After the success of the toy drive this year, Beth-Center hopes to make it an annual event.
“I hope it becomes a yearly thing,” Lacey said. “It gets the school to make a difference.”