Graphic courtesy of Cathy Wang ('22).
It is 7:30 a.m. on a Tuesday. The cold morning air fills your lung. You drive onto campus and suddenly, you spot a group of prefects dressed in quirky elf costumes, laughing and dancing awkwardly to blasting holiday music at the loop. But not this year.
The Holiday Toy Drive, first starting in the early 1990s, is among the oldest traditions at Webb. Every year, the Prefect Council organizes the drive to encourage Webb members to give back to the larger local community through a variety of ways, including toy drops and cash donations. They also set up a Christmas tree in the Price Dining Hall with paper tags that include the children’s names and their toy wishes.
While the pandemic has transformed our Webb experience in many ways, it has not deterred the Prefect Council from carrying out this time-honored tradition, especially at this special time, we should all give back as much as we can. With safety protocols in mind, the prefects have come up with a set of creative ways for Webbies around the world to contribute, including contact-free on-campus toy drop-offs, online donations via PayPal, an Amazon wish list, and a holiday card writing campaign for patients and medical staff at local hospitals.
And, of course, the prefects kicked off the toy drive with a Christmas dance, as usual. They compiled a video of prefects dancing to Jingle Bell Rock in holiday-themed outfits, which not only reminded students of the toy drive but also of the precious Webb community.
“My favorite part of the toy drive this year is seeing the entire Webb community connect no matter where we are located,” said Nicole Chen (‘21), co-head of VWS dorm prefects. “Normally, Maya [Gutierrez (‘21)] would choreograph a mini dance that prefects performed around the loop. To continue this tradition, we created a film of all the prefects dancing to cheer this routine. Seeing everyone’s faces in the video really reflected the warmth and family like feelings the holiday seasons entails.”
The limitations of the online environment this year presented the prefects with many challenges, both in terms of advertising the event and the actual execution.
“It was a lot harder to reach out to people,” said Maya Gutierrez (‘21), co-head of VWS dorm prefects. “Before, we were able to advertise it in class, and we could see each other so we could reach everyone in person easily. But online, not everyone is checking their emails. Not everyone is going onto Instagram to check the prefects’ stories. We had to put in a lot more effort to get people to just be aware of it.”
The new methods of giving online are not only easy to use, but they also provide donors with a more direct and intimate sense of involvement.
Another key focus of this year’s toy drive is the shop local campaign. Due to COVID-19, many small businesses have been forced to temporarily or permanently close down. To encourage students to support local businesses and help them survive through the pandemic, prefects created a list of toys shops and bookstores within 10 miles of Webb.
The toy drive this year was not limited to physical donations, as the prefects launched a holiday card writing campaign. While our community struggles through COVID-19, it is important to remember to appreciate the efforts of the hospital staffs as well as send love and greetings to hospital patients.
“We understand that every family situation at Webb is different,” Maya said. “So we try to get ways for people to contribute without specifically giving money or buying items.”
“I think the toy drive this year is really cool,” Ivy Yan (‘23) said. “During this time of coronavirus, people need not only help but also [a] support group so that they can stay strong together.”
Through the inclusion of not only the traditional toy drop–off but also the shop local campaign and holiday card writing activity, the toy drive this year has expanded its reach and aims to help more people in need.
“Every year, it’s extremely important to help these charities and families that don’t have as much as we do,” Maya said. “Especially right now, the number of charities and families in need are going up, the number of people who lost their jobs, the number of families that lost their primary income. There’s so much more need than ever this year, so it’s really important to help out as much as we can.”
The toy drive has provided the Webb with a valuable opportunity to give back to our larger community. With the holiday season among us, we should all be thinking about what the toy drive has shown us and continue to make an effort in helping people in need, even if just in small ways. The toy drive culminated with the reading of the holiday poem led by Kevin Quick, science department faculty, and Arielle Brosh, humanities department faculty, as Webbies put on their ugly sweaters and gathered together to hear each other get roasted.