The big smiles from children and families across Lake County...that’s what provides the most heart-warming payoff each year for those who work so diligently behind the scenes of Give-A-Thon. But all of the weeks of planning and fundraising and box-making and shopping and wrapping that happen long before that can be wonderfully satisfying as well.
Give-A-Thon, now in its 37th year, is one of Stevenson’s largest annual charitable events and it helps Lake County families in need during the holidays. Donations of food, supplies and monetary contributions are now flooding in, with newly placed drop-off boxes, made by members of the National Honor Society last week, stationed around campus for collection.
The collection of toys and gifts, a favorite for members of the National Honor Society, which sponsors Give-A-Thon, will come later this month.
“One of my favorite moments during Give-A-Thon is when I’m going out to buy the gifts for the kids,” senior Prachi Gyanmote said. “You go through your list and it’s a great feeling that you’re going to get to help someone. Using that money that you fundraised to buy those gifts is a great feeling.”
Especially when the gifts are unique...and super sweet.
“I’ve had twins ask for matching things, like coats or doll houses,” senior Minal Mohammed said with a big smile. “That is so cute, and it’s so fun to shop for and wrap.”
The process of wrapping and rounding up the gifts and donations, which will happen on “Collection Day” in front of the PAC (new this year) on Nov. 30, turns Stevenson into a “Santa’s Workshop South” of sorts. Hundreds of gifts and donations that are brought to school are jammed into the Commons and organized before being packed on trucks and driven to destinations all over Lake County, where they will be distributed to children and families in need.
The NHS is in charge of purchasing the toys and gifts from lists it receives from families across Lake County using money it collects from donations and from selling items such as food and trinkets around school over the next month.
“It’s an amazing experience being in the Wood Commons on Collection Day,” senior Jaden Varghese said of Collection Day in previous years. “You’ll see rows and rows of bikes lined up and you see huge stacks of gifts and all these volunteers smiling and having a good time and bonding with each other. And...they give out free hot chocolate! It’s an amazing experience!
Gyanmote, Mohammed and Varghese are all members of the National Honor Society’s executive board, a 12-person unit, along with sponsor Courtney Zabrin, that has been coordinating much of Give-A-Thon for National Honor Society.
On Friday, NHS worked after school to build hundreds of boxes for classrooms that will hold the food and supply donations that will come in over the next month. And often, the boxes are overflowing. For instance, each year, freshmen do a “Mac ‘N Cheese Challenge,” to see which classroom can bring in the most boxes of macaroni and cheese, since that item is one of the most popular requests from local families and food pantries. Items such as baby supplies and new mother supplies also tend to quickly fill the collection boxes around campus.
Typically, more than 350 families benefit annually from Give-A-Thon’s food, supply and gift donations, but Zabrin said that she is expecting this to be a record-breaking year, with possibly more than 400 families likely to be helped.
“I think we’re going to have a really big year,” said Zabrin, in her first year of leading Give-A-Thon. “My favorite part of it is not only being able to support the Lake County community through the gifts and the food and the baby items, but also giving our students the opportunity to be leaders and to lead in different ways in order to give back to the community.”