Program allows students to put toys in children’s hands

This year’s participants have donated about 110 gifts so far.

Mark Remme

Frontier Hall community adviser Amanda Hemmingsen understands the value of giving during the holiday season.

Since early fall, she’s devoted her time to organizing a toy drive for children who might not be able to experience that same spirit of giving.

Hemmingsen devised a toy exchange program with the Ronald McDonald House on Ontario Street near Stadium Village. The program, Got Toys?, gives University students in Frontier Hall the opportunity to buy a gift for a child at the Ronald McDonald House.

The gifts will be distributed to the children on Christmas Eve from a bag brought to the children by Santa Claus himself.

“It’s a really cool program,” Hemmingsen said. “It’s unique because students buy toys for a specific child. It makes the exchange more personal.”

She pitched the idea of a toy drive last year to her house in Frontier Hall, which consisted of 16 girls. After last year’s program proved to be a success, Hemmingsen decided to increase student involvement.

And increase she did.

The program has expanded to 140 residents of Frontier Hall who have donated approximately 110 gifts so far.

Paula Noonan, house manager at the Ronald McDonald House, said she is grateful for Hemmingsen’s program and the student involvement it has created.

“I was surprised by the number of students involved,” Noonan said. “I know everyone is busy with finals.”

Hemmingsen advertised around Frontier Hall and with admissions ambassadors, another group of which she is a part. Most participants signed up for the effort by Nov. 17.

The toys, which currently fill nearly two residential housing carts, will be taken to the Ronald McDonald House on Dec. 16.

Participants were given a gift tag with a child’s first name on it. Standard gifts are priced from $10 to $20, Hemmingsen said.

Noonan said that price pales in comparison to what the gifts mean to the children.

The program is available for all children, regardless of their family’s financial state, Noonan said.

“We started the program because what we provide them is all they get for Christmas,” Noonan said.

Families sometimes don’t have the time to buy gifts while dealing with finding sufficient medical care for their children, she said.

Mike Wicinski, a communication studies student who works at the Frontier Hall information desk, said the program is a great way for students to help the community during the holidays.

Wicinski collaborated with another student to purchase a mobile for a baby.

“It’s a wonderful way to help a lot of kids,” Wicinski said.

The Ronald McDonald House, which currently houses 150 children from infancy to the age of 19, provides care for children with life-threatening illnesses.