Toy drive raises $27,500

When children wake up to presents under the Christmas tree this year, they may want to thank the more than 1,000 Santa Clauses at Oak Mountain Middle School.

Students raised $27,440 as part of the school’s annual Toys for Tots campaign, which has raised more than $225,000 since 1999. The school sets a fund-raising goal of $20,000 each year, and each year the school surpasses its goal.

The campaign is led by the National Junior Honor Society, and its members say the toys aren’t just material possessions. They are symbols of joy and hope for the area’s less fortunate children.

“This means a lot to me because it gives me great joy to do something for others,” said Jacquelyn Hovey, 13, a NJHS member. “I think everyone feels that way.”

The school held several events to exceed its fundraising goal. Students competed in the first-ever Toys for Tots Dodge Ball Tournament, and faculty members went head to head in an Alabama/Auburn volleyball game. The school also hosted a Toys for Tots book sale.

The events, paired with individual donations, pushed the campaign over the finish line.

Students headed over to the Hoover Toys “R” Us store last week to spend the money on new toys. From Barbie to Hot Wheels, every Christmas wish was checked off the list.

The school presented the toys to the U.S. Marine Corps during a Dec. 12 assembly. The Marine Corps founded Toys for Tots in 1947.

Lt. Col. Fritz Pfeiffer, who accepted the toys, said students “should be exceptionally proud of themselves.”

“The Marines are taught about teamwork and how important teamwork is,” Pfeiffer said. “Each toy and the money you raised represents you as a team.”

One by one, students stuffed the toys in plastic bags and helped soldiers load them onto two large trucks parked outside the school’s gymnasium. The school’s jazz band played holiday tunes while the loading was done.

The soldiers thanked the students by shouting “Hoo-ra!” –– a chant used among Marines to recognize outstanding work.

The students stood up, and responded in turn. “Hoo-ra!”