The holiday season took on a bit of a different meaning this year for hundreds of Ridgely Middle School students who this month overwhelmed their teachers with strong participation in the school's first Toys for Tots drive.
"The kids are doing a greatjob," Lou Schoff, a gym teacher who is helping to organize the drive, said. "The goal was one box, but we filled that in a couple of days."
On Friday, Dec. 14 students finished filling a fourth box, which was added to the rest of this year's haul in a gym closet where the stuffed animals, toy cars, and games have grown to outnumber the basketballs and tennis rackets.
The students had one last opportunity to donate and fill a fifth box on Monday morning, ahead of delivery of the presents that afternoon.
Toys for Tots is a national holiday toy drive organized by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve that aims to ensure less fortunate children receive Christmas gifts.
Schoff said the two-week drive was promoted through the school's morning announcements, family email list, robocall list and in classes and homerooms.
But in the toy drive's first year at Ridgely, Schoff said it's clear some of the children didn't need much motivation or incentive.
"They bring them in to be able to bring joy to another kid who might not get something during Christmas," he said. "A lot of them are really excited. Some of them bring in a whole shopping bag of five or six toys that they got over the weekend."
On Friday morning, a handful of students who brought gifts that day detailed their reasons for giving back. Lexi Roros, 12, said hearing of the toy drive made her think of her grandfather, who didn't get his first pair of shoes until he was 10 years old.
Lexi said she sought to help people like him who would be left without during the holiday season.
Her classmate, 12-year-old Patrick Lang, said he and his family are familiar with charitable endeavors, particularly with their church group. Patrick, too, relished the opportunity to give back during the holiday season.
Patrick Haley, 14, said he didn't even know some children don't get the same amount of toys he and his friends receive for Christmas.
He donated some extra, unopened toys he had athomein to ensure other children have an equally enjoyable holiday. He said that among gifts he would get this year included a snowboard and membership fees for the school's ski club. Patrick said he understood how expensive that was for his family, and wanted in turn to give to others.
Schoff said the school's Helping Hands Committee, made up of faculty members, regularly meets to brainstorm and institute charitable endeavors at the school in order to raise students' awareness of social issues.
When one member of the committee suggested Toys for Tots, Schoff said the "all agreed that's probably a good idea."
"It's something that's already established, but we certainly could be a place that contributes to it," he said. "We went with it."