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ISSUE 118 VOL 10 PUBLISHED 12/3/2004

Holiday gift drive brings patients joy

By Lauren Radomski
Variety Editor

Friday, December 3, 2004

St. Olaf’'s Cancer Connection (SCC) is holding its annual holiday gift drive this week, the proceeds of which will benefit pediatric oncology patients at Children'’s Hospital in St. Paul.

According to SCC founder and president Ashley Miller '06, "The gift drive is a great way for students to make a considerable difference in these patients'’ lives." Toys are being collected for children ages one through 18, and will be distributed to long-term patients, as well as to those who are coming in for appointments and treatment over the holiday season. Often the gifts go to siblings of patients as well.

The gift drive first took place last year, after SCC member James Boyum '04 told the organization about his family'’s efforts to gather presents for young patients. It was at the request of Boyum’'s brother, who lost his battle with cancer at age 21. Since then, SCC has worked in conjunction with the Boyum family to bring joy to kids at Children’'s.

50 gifts were received last year, providing each child with a gift both before and after Christmas. Long-term patients, who spent Christmas Day in the hospital, received an additional present. Students donated a variety of toys, such as building blocks, video games and Barbies. SCC received so many stuffed animals that they were able to give each child an animal, too.

SCC is collecting cash donations as well. Last year, a portion of the $550 collected was used to buy Cub Foods gift cards for families whose finances were depleted by the cost of treatments. Since people tend to donate more presents geared toward younger children, another portion of the money was used to buy gift cards from stores like Best Buy and Galyan’'s for older patients.

Gift drive volunteers give a variety of reasons for their involvement in the project, but many are inspired by family or friends who have been touched by cancer.

Gizelle Chavez '07 lost a friend to cancer two years ago, and remembers visiting her in the hospital around the holidays. Chavez said giving that to the children "lets them know that someone out there cares."

Miller said that people are generally very excited about buying presents for children. The drive was held at the same time last year, so parents returning for Christmas Festival often remember the cause and are eager to help out.

Although the gift drive officially ends on Sunday, donations are still welcome in the coming weeks. A collection will be taken at the upcoming Limestones concert Saturday, Dec. 18, and the money will also go toward the gift drive. The amount donated at this event last year totaled $300.

The holiday gift drive is one of several events sponsored by SCC throughout the year. Other events include the Date Auction, Daffodil Days and Relay for Life. SCC is in its second year and defines itself as a service organization designed to provide cancer-related opportunities in the areas of volunteering, cancer education, outreach and fundraising not only for the St. Olaf community, but also residents of Northfield and surrounding areas.

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