Annual Orange Santa toy drive begins

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Students walk past one of many Orange Santa donation bins in the Student Activity Center on Dec. 1, 2015. The program is meant to provide assistance to the special needs community.
Photo Credit: Briana Vargas | Daily Texan Staff

A 7-foot-tall replica of the UT Tower known as the “Tower of Toys” will stand in the ground floor of the Main Building where students can place donations for Orange Santa.

Thursday marked the beginning of the annual Orange Santa toy drive, an effort by the community to provide toys to UT families in need. The collaborative program, sponsored by the Office of the President, hopes to build on the success it’s had in the past.

Hayden Pigott, founder of Texas Ladybirds, a spirit organization involved in many UT service projects, said it’s important for students to give back to their community.

“Participating in community service projects gives you a sense of purpose,” Pigott said. “It makes your life and the lives of those around you so much better.”

Students can donate new, unwrapped toys and gifts at the UT guard gates or any of the 20 donation stations listed on the Orange Santa website. Monetary donations can also be made online.

The Student Activity Center already has a donation station located by the first-floor desk for students who want to get an early start.

Orange Santa first began in 1994 as a way to create a caring campus environment. In December 2015, Orange Santa served 263 families, including 677 children, according to the Orange Santa website.

Public health sophomore Alie Aydin said she might volunteer for the drive with some of her service sorority friends.

“I was fortunate enough to never question if my parents would be able to buy me what I wanted for Christmas,” Aydin said. “Orange Santa makes sure kids don’t feel like they might not get a present and I think that’s awesome.”

The Orange Santa program also provides a holiday store for eligible families to shop for gifts. The store is stocked with the items donated on campus as well as items collected at special events.

Chemical engineering senior Jinna Chu said she has donated toys to Orange Santa in the past through a club she participated in and encourages other organizations to get involved.

“For kids to feel included is important, especially in the holiday season,” Chu said. “I still remember how happy I was when I got an Easy Bake Oven for Christmas. It’s important to share that joy with kids who don’t have the same opportunities as us.”

Donations can be placed in the Tower of Toys through Dec. 2.