Matthew 18:1-5 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name, welcomes me.”
American University of Health Sciences (AUHS) gave an early Christmas to hundreds of low income families by giving each child a free toy at the “7th Annual Santa Cause Toys for Joy” event on Monday, December 12th, 2016. Participating families also had the opportunity to take a free picture with Santa Claus and were provided with free snacks.
The University parking lot came alive with Christmas wreaths, sparkling ornaments, nutcrackers, and a Christmas tree adorned with red poinsettias and a golden star. There was a display for the Santa Claus photo opportunity, a “Santa’s Workshop” booth where boxes of toys were displayed and a booth with rows of bags filled with snacks. Cheerful Christmas songs such as “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” “Joy to the World,” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem” played on a loudspeaker while people gathered outside the gates.
The event was scheduled to begin at 2 pm but a line had already begun to form as early as 8 in the morning. The line wrapped around the campus parking lot and was filled with children excited to meet Santa and receive their gifts.
Over 40 AUHS nursing students volunteered at the event. The students were dressed in their blue uniforms but showed their holiday spirit by wearing elf ears, reindeer horns and Santa Claus hats. AUHS students, faculty and staff worked as early as 7 am setting up the booths, the
Christmas tree and decorations. They also prepared the toys and packed snacks.
Santa Claus arrived on campus around 2 pm to greet the children who were waiting for him in line. Many of the children ran to Santa for a hug while their parents took pictures on their phones. The attendees of the event was a diverse crowd. Not only were there English speaking families but many Spanish, Cambodian and Filipino speaking families as well. Santa was able to speak several phrases like “Merry Christmas,” “What do you want for Christmas?” and “Have you been good this year?” in Spanish, Tagalog and Khmer to better accommodate the children and their parents.
Quione Rodriguez, AUHS nursing student, became Santa’s little body guard for this year’s event. He stood out amongst his fellow elves by dressing as a modern elf with blue ray-ban sun glasses and a colorful sweater with “Fruit Cake” written across the chest. Rodriguez accompanied Santa while he walked to the line to greet the attendees before the event began, helping families take pictures of Santa.
“It was my first time participating in Santa Cause. I felt very privileged because I was able to interact with the families more than the other students were able to,” Rodriguez said, “This (event) stuck in my head because that’s what being a healthcare professional is all about. Caring for people doesn’t stop when you ‘clock out.’ It becomes a lifestyle and people will always expect you to help.”
Amarri Sanders, AUHS Student Success Coordinator, also volunteered at the event by helping guide the families towards the toy booth.
“The best part was seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces and to see how happy all the mothers were to know that their children will be getting a present for Christmas,” Sanders said, “I love how often the university does charitable events like this and how [all the staff and faculty] gets to be a part of it.”
Sanders donated a baby doll for the Santa Cause event and was able to see the little girl who received her gift.
“It was heart-warming and it felt like I did something meaningful for Christmas,” Sanders said.
AUHS thanks all the students, faculty and staff for volunteering at this year’s Santa Cause event and for helping to bring joy to children in need this winter. AUHS also thanks Kellytoy for donating over 200 stuffed toys. This event would not have been possible without your support and generosity.
AUHS is a private, for-profit, minority owned, minority serving, Christian-based university that offers a B.S. Degree in Nursing and Pharmaceutical Sciences and a Master’s Degree in Clinical Research.
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