Patients in a children’s hospital in Hollywood and students at a nonprofit educational center in Immokalee and a South Bay elementary school received plenty of holiday cheer and toys thanks to the Seminole Tribe of Florida Inc.’s annual toy drive sponsored by Seminole Gaming.
Kyla Davis, STOF Inc. marketing director, said the drive brought in about 650 toys this year. Tribal and Gaming employees were among those who helped with the drive. Toys made it into the hands of kids in December, starting with young patients at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital on Dec. 6.
Each year many children in the U.S. have to spend the holidays in hospitals like Joe DiMaggio’s. Whether it is for injuries, diseases, and/or other heath related problems. A hospital is not the most ideal place to celebrate Christmas. By simply being paid a visit from Santa a child’s outlook on their current condition can be improved, and help them in their recovery. A kind gesture of holiday spirit, such as that provided by the toy drive, can help them during the season of perpetual hope.
President Mitchell Cypress and Santa Claus spread the joy of Christmas at the hospital with assistance from Hollywood Councilman Chris Osceola, Hollywood Board Rep. Gordon Wareham, Miss Florida Seminole Cheyenne Kippenberger and Tribal employees as gifts were handed out to patients, many of them in bed. The gifts brought smiles to children of all ages as well as their families.
The toy drive team began handing out gifts on the first floor and kept the holiday cheer moving to the upper floors. In true gift giving fashion Christmas cards with sentiments from different Tribal departments such as the Boys and Girls Club and the Seminole Police Department accompanied the toys.
Five days later the toy drive’s caravan arrived in Immokalee, where toys were unloaded for the Guadalupe Center, an organization whose mission is to create “endless possibilities for the students of Immokalee through education and fostering personal and academic success that leads to economic independence.”
The following day – Dec. 12 – it wasn’t Santa’s sleigh that arrived at Rosenwald Elementary School in South Bay, but rather We Do Recover’s white Ford F350, which pulled into the parking lot with a trailer full of giant boxes of toys in tow.
“We like giving. We’re blessed with what we have so we like to share with people who aren’t as (fortunate),” said We Do Recover program supervisor Charlie Tiger, who was accompanied by other members of the program who helped set up tables and hand out toys alongside Board staff and Rep. Wareham.
Rosenwald principal Dionne Napier said the school was thrilled to be selected by STOF Inc., especially because a group of students had returned with rave reviews from a field trip to Big Cypress the previous month.
“Some of our students went to the reservation and visited the (Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki) museum in November. They loved it,” Napier said. “So when my assistant principal Miss Matthews said she received the email (about the toy drive), I was very happy they thought of us because they honestly could have gone to any school. As you could see from the students’ reactions, they were very excited.”
Indeed, the students’ faces lit up when they saw tables full of toys and goodies. Every student in the school – from kindergarten through 5th grade – picked out one toy each and received holiday candy. The respectful students made sure to thank all who made it possible. In all, nearly 300 students received toys.
“We are a Title 1 school and we’re 99 percent free and reduced lunch. Some of our students’ families may have some hardships, but they send them with their best and we try to teach our students to be grateful for what they have and to always think about others,” Napier said.
(Senior Editor Kevin Johnson also contributed to this story).