The drive is named for Hall of Fame Chicago Bear and former Saint Viator parent, Walter Payton. His son, Jarrett, graduated from Saint Viator in 1999 and he continues to be an ambassador for the school.
For the last 14 years, Saint Viator students have worked to help the foundation distribute toys to children in the care of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, as well as individual families and the families of veterans in need
This year, Emma Abrahamian ’19, Tara Valentino ’20 Jack Ziebka, ’21, Maeve McDonough, ‘22 and Jasmyn Alaba ‘22 led the drive as class leaders. Together with ICC Co-Presidents Emma Hogaboom ’19 and Danny Thompson ’19, they began fundraising for the project as far back as Halloween.
According to Mrs. Anne Marie Lowery and Mrs. Cathy Abrahamian, who moderated the drive, students and faculty raised nearly $2,500. From those funds, each class was able to purchase toys while faculty members purchased new bicycles.
Students and their families also donated individual toys and stuffed animals. In fact, it was a common sight to see teens walking into school with bags of gifts.
“So many students came to school in the morning with their Target, Kohl’s, or Walmart bags,” Mrs. Lowery said, “and placed their purchased items in the collection boxes, with pride.
“As we sorted through them I was so proud to see the variety of items,” she added. “It was clear that they had put great care into choosing a present a child would enjoy.”
When the drive ended on Nov. 30, students and their families had filled 25 large boxes of toys and seven bicycles, including two which were donated. Last week, on the delivery date, student leaders filled four pick-up trucks, two cars and an SUV to the brim with toys.
For Mrs. Lowery, who is in her first year as Student Activities Director at Saint Viator, she was amazed at just how much students got into the drive and worked to make Christmas merry for other children.
“Their spirit of generosity,” Mrs. Lowery said, “just blew me away.”