Day 5: Days of Giving

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By Hiba Samdani, Rohan Anne and Zara Samdani, Co-T/E Life Editor and Staff Reporters

Stoga Big Give

As the bell rings and students rush into school, festive flyers and brightly colored boxes line the hall of the main lobby. Each flyer contains information about a specific event, and boxes line up accordingly for each poster in a decorative pattern. A student sits at the main table giving out information for these fundraisers and drives. For senior Aishna Gaikwad, the student sitting at the table and one of the organizers of the drive, Christmas time is a season for giving, and the donation boxes of the Stoga Big Give are a perfect way to give back to the community in need.

The Stoga Big Give consists of 6 drives running from December 6th to December 22nd. These drives are Toys for Tots, A Cause for Creativity, One Warm Coat, Berwyn Fire Company, CHOP Toy Drive, and The Joy of Sox. The first three drives are in-person, featuring collection boxes for each drive in the main lobby. The last 3 drives are virtual, consisting of online monetary donations or purchases or Amazon purchases for The Joy of Sox. The Stoga Big Give was organized by the Student Council, who mainly organized the Toys for Tots drive, and Peer Mediation, who worked on organizing the rest of the Stoga Big Give drives and fundraisers. Social Studies teacher and peer mediation adviser Emily McGready, believes the wide selection of drives offers a good way to give back to the community.

“Alongside Student Council’s Toys for Tots, working with CHOP and their toy drive also allows a local collection,” McGready said. “Each year we try to find both national and local drives to participate in. We also hope to promote a positive climate in the school by building community through giving to those in need as we are able.”

The purpose of the Stoga Big Give was to provide unity and offer a way to give back to the community. Gaikwad reflects on the true meaning of the Stoga Big Give. 

“Our whole goal with this annual drive is supposed to create unity,” Gaikwad said. “(It also) reminds individuals that since Thanksgiving just happened, it is a moment of gratitude and just like, (to reflect) on what we have and knowing that we are able to give back to other people who aren’t as fortunate as us.”

Caitlin’s Holiday Drive

For freshman Caitlin O’Connor, dealing with Hodgkin Lymphoma was a life changing experience that came with much uncertainty. After undergoing chemotherapy at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), O’Connor has decided to give back to the hospital that gave her “a second chance to live (her) life to fullest.”

O’Connor started “Caitlin’s Holiday Fundraising” drive  in early November by setting up a webpage on CHOP’s donation’s site. When she began, she intended to raise $2,500 over a 2-month period. Within 24 hours, she reached her initial goal and has already changed it twice because of the overwhelming number of donations. Currently, her goal is set at $10,000 and she has already garnered $9,475 worth of donations.

“I feel it’s crazy in a way that people are so generous,” O’Connor said. “I feel like you don’t always see that generosity and kindness from people, so it was just really nice seeing that people are there and they care about you.”

Although she had a great experience with the staff at CHOP, O’Connor understands how chemotherapy can be especially fearful for younger patients. With her drive, she hopes CHOP can use the money to further develop their cancer center

O’Connor credits her teacher Danielle Sculley-Ellett as instrumental in helping promote her fundraiser. Sculley-Ellett emailed the website to the school staff because of the inspiration she saw in O’Connor’s story.

“I have a quote up (on the wall) that says “Let your fears make you fierce” and it reminds me of her,” Scuelley-Ellett said. “She’s an inspiration because she’s killing it in school, she’s doing her work and she’s been through some pretty tough treatments.”

Overall the experience with cancer and starting a fundraiser has taught O’Connor to take initiative on potential goals.

“It’s given me a whole new perspective on life,” O’Connor said. “Life is too short not to do things that you might be a little scared to do or nervous to do. “That’s probably where this fundraiser came from because I’m not scared to do things like that anymore.”

Courtesy of Jean Allen, Holiday Drive Chair

T&E Care Holiday Drive

For the past 12 years, locals from the T/E community have donated food, clothes, toys, and other goods to T&E Care’s annual holiday drive. These goods are then shipped to T/E families, who may otherwise not be able to sustain themselves. 

Every December, T&E Care hosts a holiday drive where collect donations from community members and distribute them to families in need. The mission of T&E Care is to provide financial and other material assistance to people in and around the Tredyffrin and Easttown township areas. This drive has run for 12 years, and, according to Eileen Ryle, a current board member of the drive, it has been extremely successful each year. 

“Every year, we do a holiday drive, and we collect gifts, cleaning baskets, household items, food which come from a sign-up sheet on SignupGenius.com. People can sign-up to take items which given to families in the area,” Ryle said. 

Usually, the drive collects food, clothes, toiletries, toys, and pajamas. This year, however, due to COVID-19, T&E Care has modified their plans for the drive to donate gifts, gift cards, household items and money. There have also been other changes as a result of the pandemic. 

“Previously, it was a centralized location where people could drop their gifts off at one location, but because of COVID, the drive has become decentralized: people drop them off to multiple locations. But it still works. COVID hasn’t changed anything. The drive is still as successful as it was two or three years ago,” Jean Allen, another current board member of the drive, said. 

According to Allen, this year’s drive was able created a positive impact on the community, despite changes from COVID-19. Over 150 families have received gifts and commodities, and many families have been provided with enough money to sustain their households for several months. Besides donating 100 bags of cleaning supplies, holiday wreaths, packages of pajamas, and special gift bags with blankets, almost $80,000 in gift cards were also distributed so families could buy food and gifts for the holidays. 

“I think [T&E Care] is doing a good thing: helping families that need it,” Allen said. “We helped so many families gain access to resources and hopefully next year we’ll be able to have the same success.” 


Hiba Samdani can be reached at [email protected]

Rohan Anne can be reached at [email protected]

Zara Samdani can be reached at [email protected]