Jan. 11, 2002
Volume XXXV, No. 2



Gifts for Children program sees largest collection of toys in years

Photo Dr. Francisco G. Cigarroa, Health Science Center president, helps 2-year-old Elijah James Martinez Forman choose a gift from under the holiday tree.

The holidays were a lot brighter for thousands of sick and hospitalized children thanks to Health Science Center employees and students.

The annual Gifts for Children committee members reported that 4,269 toys and other children's items were collected at the UTHSC this season. "This is the largest collection of items the Health Science Center has seen in several years," said Patti Lairsey, orthodontics, a Gifts for Children committee member. She and Kim Johnson, multimedia and Web services; Anna Paccione, MD labs; and Karen Tucker and Steve Atkins, university police, chaired the toy drive.

Lairsey said the toy collection began in early November. "We didn't know what to expect this year because we were aware that the Sept. 11 tragedy affected everyone emotionally and financially," Lairsey said. "But the Health Science Center family members really opened up their hearts and their pocketbooks despite the tragic events. Monetary donations were used to buy clothing and items such as TVs, VCRs and microwave ovens for the clinics." Lairsey said that with the volume of items received this year, the gifts should last at the hospitals through the summer.

"I wish every employee could see the smiles that the toys they donated put on the faces of the children," Lairsey said. The toys were on display under the holiday tree during the Dec. 18 Employee Holiday Reception. The following day, approximately 30 employee volunteers helped sort the items and prepare them for distribution to the hospitals. The items were then handed over to hospital representatives who distributed them to children treated in the University Health System, Christus Santa Rosa Children's Hospital, the PREMIEre Program and community pediatrics' children with AIDS program.

Lairsey said members of the Gifts for Children committee already are planning next year's toy drive and hope to raise just as many toys and monetary donations, if not more than this year's drive. Book fairs and candy sales will be held throughout the year to help raise funds. For more information about the Gifts for Children program, contact Lairsey at lairsey@uthscsa.edu, Johnson at johnsonke@uthscsa.edu or Paccione at paccione@uthscsa.edu.