Children at the Big Cypress Youth Home will have a merrier Christmas this year, thanks to a tribal wide toy drive organized by Miss Florida Seminole Cheyenne Kippenberger.
Donation boxes for toys are located in Tribal offices on every reservation. The drive ends Dec. 12 and the children will receive their gifts at a special Christmas dinner on Dec. 19.
The youth home fosters Tribal members under the age of 18.
The idea for the toy drive came about during a conversation Kippenberger had with her grandmother Lawanna Osceola-Niles.
“We were discussing what would be a good way to use my platform to do something for the community,” Kippenberger said.
After brainstorming the idea, the toy drive was formed. Kippenberger set out to get the toy drive in gear.
First Kippenberger contacted the youth home itself, but staff members were not sure how to go about setting up a charity event such as this one. The next stop was the obvious place everyone goes to get the word out; social media.
A few posts and phone calls later Kippenberger had the information she needed. She contacted Kimberly Bridgman, Big Cypress youth home support specialist and Christian Heinsler, youth home administrator, both of whom work for the Center for Behavioral Health Department. Over the course of their telephone meetings, the toy drive began to evolve and take shape.
“We talked about what it was going to be, and that’s when it turned into a necessities drive as well,” Kippenberger said, “Because the youth home is just that; a home. They require basic household necessities like any other home.”
Apart from toys, the youth home needs children’s clothing for boys and girls, diapers, baby wipes, twin bedsheets and blankets. Cash is also accepted.
“This really hit a soft spot for me because these are children who for one reason or another do not get to spend the holidays with their parents. The children at the youth home deserve to have the joys of Christmas because they are also Tribal members,” Kippenberger said.
More information about the toy drive can be found on its Facebook page: Seminole Tribe of Florida, Inc. Toy Drive.