Education column: Toy run brings out spirit of season

This is the season when talk of giving becomes commonplace. With the increased activities across the district, celebrations of this special time of year are everywhere: School plays and assemblies; parties; performances; and more. It's difficult to keep track of all the wonderful things going on that not only showcase the skills and talents of our kids, but also demonstrate the giving, loving acts of both students and staff.

One such instance exemplified the spirit of giving. During recent years Sandia Elementary has been involved in a special event called the "Toy Run." Facilitated by principal, Matthew Vetterly, together with community member, Rocky Martin, Joe Whitehurst of the Clovis Evening Lion's Club, and others, Sandia students pitch in to help with a toy drive.

It involves both teachers and students volunteering their time and energy outside school hours to collect and process "gently used" and new toys that students bring in for the Toy Run. Martin and a group of his friends began this volunteer effort to collect toys for CASA — Court Appointed Special Advocates — to use with children throughout the year.

The Toy Run begins with a kick-start assembly to put forth the challenge for the toy drive to help kids less fortunate. The challenge is dramatized as Martin and a couple of friends arrive on motorcycles, slowly driving into the gym, stirring up great excitement among students and staff. During the course of telling kids about the Toy Run, a call comes in from Santa Claus, encouraging the kids.

Toys are collected during the course of about two weeks, and teachers give each child a ticket for each toy brought in, whether new or gently used. The matching ticket goes into a big hopper for prize drawings at the end of the toy drive.

At the end of the two weeks, Martin returns with a larger group of motorcyclists, including Santa and Mrs. Clause, again roaring into the gym. Huge excitement abounds with the arrival of these special celebrities, and prizes, donated by the adults involved, are drawn for Sandia students. There are little prizes and big prices, including bicycles.

Vetterly and Martin reported that this year, the drive resulted in two pickup loads of toys, most of which were in great shape. Vetterly shared general information about this now famous Toy Run.

When begun several years ago, the kids were very willing to participate, however, that willingness has grown to great enthusiasm on the part of students, who now eagerly anticipate the event. In fact, they begin asking about it long before the actual Toy Run begins.

Most aptly capturing the spirit of the occasion, one young student who came up to receive his prize when his ticket was drawn out of the hopper, insisted on not accepting his prize, but giving to another child who was less fortunate. Stunned, the adults asked them if there was anything he would like instead; just his picture taken with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Good example for all of us.

Cindy Kleyn-Kennedy is the instructional technology Coordinator for the Clovis Municipal Schools and can be reached at

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