By Crystal E. Valenzuela
On Friday, December 14, 2018, American University of Health Sciences Foundation hosted nearly four hundred men, women, and children at the 9th Annual Santa Cause Toy Giveaway. AUHS’ BSN nursing students, as well as staff and faculty, arrived on campus at approximately ten o’clock in the morning to begin setting up the afternoon festivities. Free toys lined the tops of approximately six banquet sized tables, the AUHS Foundation pop-up tent made for the perfect Santa and Mrs. Clause photo booth while holiday music played in the background and participants enjoyed mini candy canes with snacks. Toy vouchers were provided by the Foundation to its partner local elementary schools, charitable institutions,andsocial services agencies to distribute to children in need. A few of the local partners involved in the day’sevent includeBobby Smith Elementary School, Whittier Elementary, Signal Hill Elementary School and Lafayette Elementary School. The social services partners include WIC, United Cambodian Community, and Las Brisa’s Housing Complex. This year is also the first time Community Family Garden Center participated in one of AUHS’ yearly events; the hope is that the Foundation canhelp their families in need through the toy drive and invite them back to partake in campus quarterly food drives as well as children’s workshops.
This year Ms. Jeanetta Mastron, Library Assistant, dressed up as Mrs. Claus, she smiled and laughed with the visiting kids, the looks on their faces revealed that it was an exciting day. Students lined the pathway which began on the corner of Walnut and East Hill Street in Signal Hill. There were two lines full of families waiting to enter the event. Student volunteers mannedtheir stations by directing the flow of the crowd. Once the kids and their families reached the main gate,they were escortedto the Santa and Mrs. Claus booth. June, a first-year nursing student stood nearby to capture pictures of the children with their families; another student handed out free candy canes after the photos and maintained order to advance the lines and ensure a smooth holiday adventure.
Mickey and Minnie Mouse dolls graced the tops of tables donated by Ms. Maria Maloles, Director of Marketing and Publications; therewas blue race cars, black toy trucks, card games, board games, construction sets, dolls, stuffed animals and lots more. The looks on the children’s faces werepure delight full of smiles all around. Unique to this year’s event is that the children were also givenan opportunity to choose a free book in addition to toys. Ms. June Kim, University Librarian, stated that “the children and their parents were delighted and appreciative to get the books. We gave out hundreds of books and the student volunteers were reallygreat in how they interacted with the kids. Keane Manaquil, BSN student, was awesome”. The most popular book titles included, “The Magic School Bus,”Dr. Seuss’ Inside Your Outside” and “Frog and Toad” series. At the end of the maze of toys, the elementary school kids were given a light snack; hot dog with choice of toppings, something crunchy and a drink. Many of the kids lingered around and talked with the student volunteers; all decked out in their best elf décor.
Overall, it is safe to say that the event was a success and community members left with a sense of contentment. All of the events hosted by the American University of Health Science’s Foundation are largelysuccessful due to the collaboration efforts between staff, faculty and student volunteers. Lieu Dang Suss, AUHS Foundation, Program Director, shared that “the nursing student volunteers are fantastic, we couldn’t do any of these activities and events for the community without the support of our student volunteers from the university. They play a big role in all of the events we do andthey take as much joy from volunteering at the events as the kids get from receiving at these events”. The wonderfulthing about these events is that students are always encouraged to gobeyond academic excellence and use their time to make a positive impact o society; especially for communities that are underserved.