A UNLV tradition of supporting local children with holiday gifts is alive and well, despite complications posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Between 600 and 800 gifts were purchased by UNLV students, staff, and faculty for members of two midtown Las Vegas Boys & Girls Clubs. The toys were presented this week by UNLV President Keith E. Whitfield during socially distanced visits to the Ralph and Betty Engelstad Boys & Girls Club and the John D. Gaughan Boys & Girls Club.
“I was heartened to learn that our students, staff, and faculty were continuing to support this important cause despite the pandemic, and I'm proud that I could be a part of it," said President Whitfield. "UNLV is committed to partnering with our community in ways that are truly impactful, and it means a lot that our university community was able to brighten the holidays for children throughout Southern Nevada."UNLV has hosted the annual toy drive for the past three years. Because nearly three-quarters of classes are meeting remotely, registered student organizations were instrumental in promoting the drive remotely via an Amazon Wishlist due to the potential health risks.
“Our students come from all sorts of backgrounds, and many of them understand that holiday gifts, particularly in the current economic climate, are not assured,” said Sunny Gittens, executive director of UNLV’s Office of Student Involvement and Activities. “Though conducting this toy drive online was different, we all understand how impactful these gifts can be.”
In previous years, gifts were distributed to Boys & Girls Club members during a full-scale Winter Festival hosted by UNLV in partnership with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department's South Central Area Command and the John D. Gaughan Boys & Girls Club. UNLV student organizations facilitated carnival-like games and entertainment during the festival. That portion of the drive is suspended, but there are plans for its return when pandemic restrictions are lifted.
“This year, we have seen everyday life affected in so many ways, but we are delighted the UNLV community didn’t allow it to impact their holiday spirit,” said Lindsey Hibbard, resource development director Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada. “UNLV has always been a fantastic supporter of our programs, and this contactless toy drive was a great success.”
UNLV’s Office of Community Engagement and Office of Student Involvement & Activities supported the online toy drive along with several registered student organizations, including the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Alpha Epsilon Delta, Public Interest Law Association, and Human Resources Student Association, among others.