Sister school toy drive brings joy

Cal students collect 400 toys for annual fundraiser


Lili Loney

Children from Michelle Obama Elementary walk into a classroom to pick out toys that were donated by students at Cal High. Cal was able to collect more than 400 toys for the children.

Cal High has a long standing tradition of donating toys to distribute at its sister school of more than 10 years, Michelle Obama School in Richmond.
Leadership students spread some early holiday cheer on Dec. 2 when they handed out more than 400 toys to the 300-plus pre-K through sixth-grade students, who look forward to this annual December visit.
“It’s nice to just be able to get together for a common cause and do things for other people without any expectation back,” Global Studies teacher and student activity director Hannah Cheng said about the toy drive. “I think it’s always good to find opportunities to connect with people and in different ways.”
Michelle Obama is a government funded school, which means the gifts the children receive from the drive may be the only presents they get, said senior Simi Shetty, who was excited to led the toy drive this year.
“[The elementary schoolers] know us as the super cool high schoolers that come in every year,” Shetty said.
Leadership puts in lots of diligent planning to make sure that there are not only enough toys for the children but also fun crafts and activities to make the day memorable.
“It was a challenge this year in terms of we only had two weeks to fundraise,” Shetty said. “It was really amazing that the community pulled through.”
This year a classwide competition was held to encourage students to donate toys. Troy Bristol’s second period AP U.S. History class won the competition by bringing in about 85 toys, nearly a quarter of those donated.
“I was really pleasantly surprised because in the past we’ve had not enough toys, and I feel like we did really well and I feel that was partially to do with the competition,” junior leadership student Kyla Barnes said.
Cheng said there was no need to reach out to the PTA for funds to buy more presents like leadership has done in the past because of Cal students’ generosity.
Leadership students that planned and participated in the toy drive realized the importance of the event to both the community and the children.
“I think [the toy drive is] important because the students aren’t as fortunate as we are, and the toys they get aren’t just materialistic,” sophomore leadership student Amrin Gill said. “They see that other people care about them. They see that we want to make them smile.”
Added Barnes, “Going to the school is so fun and the kids are adorable. They’re just all so happy and excited every year we go.”
Both Shetty and Gill noted that many of the children said it was “the best day ever”.
While the toys and activities are important to spreading holiday cheer to the children, at Michelle Obama School, leadership students were affected by the experience as well.
“It’s uplifting for me because you feel like a better person,” Barnes said. “You give them something that they get excited about, especially if they don’t have that opportunity at home. It lifts you up. It makes you happy.”
Gill added, “Something I could do could impact so many people and kids, it’s just so rewarding to see them happy.”
Donated presents are going to real children who appreciate the opportunity to receive not only a toy but holiday spirit from someone else.
“It all circles back to seeing how amazing Cal High is as a community,” Shetty said. “[The toy drive turnout] restores hope in our community that people are willing to help out one another and spread holiday cheer.”