The Spirit of the Holidays

“It’s important to give back during the holiday season because we have to remember that there are so many children that aren’t as fortunate as us… One toy can make such a large impact on a child,” says junior Gabby Oliveri, the vice president of the Peer Leaders organization.

Not only is she an active participant in the club, but Oliveri is the creator of the Wayne Valley Holiday Toy Drive. With the help of advisors Mrs. Sebak and Ms. Potts, Oliveri began this event in order to give back to children who are in hospitals around the holidays. Donations will include new, unwrapped toys, which can be brought to homerooms from December 3-14. They will be delivered to the Goryeb Children’s Hospital in Morristown, NJ and Valley Home Care in Paramus, NJ. This is in support of the Lily LaRue Foundation, a charity in memory of a Wayne resident who passed away of brain cancer when she was only six years old.

The drive was planned in November, allowing extra time to smooth out the details. Advisor Ms. Potts recounts how Oliveri researched a few other organizations before deciding on the Lily Larue Foundation. However, these were eventually ruled out, as Lily’s cause, “was the one that seemed most in line with the goal she was trying to accomplish in terms of being able to successfully help families.” After contacting Lily’s mother, Oliveri researched the hospitals Lily stayed at in hopes of helping other children in her situation. Lily’s mother was happy to help out, as the charity is especially important to her and the memory of her daughter.

The purpose of the foundation is to increase awareness of pediatric cancer, especially Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, which Lily battled for almost a year. Not only is it designed to raise funds for pediatric cancer patients, but to improve the lives of these children at home and in the hospital. As Oliveri explains, she really connected with this specific organization, stating, “I wanted to honor Lily and work with her mother to raise awareness and help other children that aren’t as lucky and fortunate as us during the holiday season.” Though she put forth the initiative herself, she emphasizes how she would not have been able to arrange the drive without the support of Mrs. Sebak and Ms. Potts.

Mrs. Sebak and Ms. Potts both are incredibly proud of Oliveri’s determination to bring the drive to life. They agree that this is the essence of Peer Leaders and the holiday season. According to Mrs. Sebak, “I think you give what you can when you can… During this season there are so many little kids who cannot control their circumstances; they don’t understand why they have to be in a hospital or why there might not be any holiday gift. If my small donation can make a little kid smile and feel special for one day, then I am happy.”

Ms. Potts adds to this, explaining, “This time of the year is a common time for people to be able to reflect and understand that there may be something that we can give to help others… It doesn’t have to be monetary: just giving positive feedback and being kind to others…is good practice, too.”

Ultimately, Oliveri and her advisors are very excited about the toy drive and hope for its success. Help bring holiday spirit to children in need by donating new toys to your homeroom! Again, the drive ends on Friday, December 14.