With the frenzy of Black Friday deals and Cyber Monday zeal, it can be difficult to divert our attention to more charitable endeavors during the early parts of the holiday season. The UT Police Department is offering an opportunity with its annual toy collection program, Orange Santa, to help facilitate donations small and large for families in need.
Using collection bins placed across campus, UTPD aims to gather hundreds of toys that are unopened and unwrapped. Contributions made to all 30 collection stations, including parking garages, guard stations, Perry-Castañeda Library and the main building, will be distributed to the children of students and faculty who are eligible.
Gifted items are recommended for all ages under 17. Small electronics, jewelry, sports equipment, instruments and board games are among the many suggested contributions. Monetary donations may also be made through Orange Santa’s website or a check made out to the University of Texas.
Throughout the years, the Orange Santa program has garnered a large number of benefactors around UT’s campus and Austin alike. From the University Co-op to the Walmart Foundation, 18 different charitable organizations are chipping in by providing financial assistance to the event. Working alongside the Hispanic Faculty and Staff Association, UTPD is able to provide a full-course meal to families in need, Darrell Halstead, an officer at UTPD who has participated in the program for several years now, said.
“The best part of the whole thing is the look that the kids get in their eyes when we roll a brand new bike over to them,” Halstead said. “It’s fun to watch them become giddy and run around because they know they’re getting early Christmas presents.”
Cash donations, toys and food will be made available to families in need at the Holiday Store, which will be set up in Bellmont Hall between Dec. 8 and 10. Although the deadline to apply for participation in the Orange Santa program has passed, volunteers are still wanted at the Holiday Store between Dec. 6 and Dec. 10 to help assist shoppers and wrap gifts. Students interested in getting involved may contact Kathy Fries, the volunteer organizer behind this concerted effort.
“[Orange Santa] is one of the many things we do here to try and give back to the community a little bit. It gives people a chance to see the police department in a different light and personally, being able to give back is why I love my job,” Halstead said.
This upcoming Saturday will be the last opportunity for fans to gain free access to a UT sporting event by donating a gift to the Orange Santa toy drive. The UT men’s basketball team will take on UT Arlington in the Frank Erwin Center, although the time of the game has yet to be announced. General donations for the toy drive will conclude Dec. 7.
Printed on Monday, Nov. 26, 2012 as:UTPD's 'Orange Santa' collects toys