LGBT community hosts toy drive

By By Jamie Bowen, Staff Writer

By Jamie Bowen, Staff Writer

Dreams of Santa Claus visiting and lights glowing on a decorated pine tree usually signify the Christmas holiday has arrived.

But this isn’t true for the children who will be spending the holiday in Primary Children’s Hospital.

To give those children a taste of Christmas cheer, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is conducting a toy drive to help benefit children who have to stay in the hospital over the holidays.

“I personally think that a child who missed out on Christmas because of health problems would be unfair,” said Jacob Whipple, a senior in Spanish and organizer of the drive. “We want to give back to the community and we want to help out those children who are in the hospital.”

Marie Hendriksen, Gift-in-Kind coordinator at Primary Children’s Hospital, said the toys can make a surprising difference for children.

She said she remembers a woman from Idaho whose son was taken to the hospital by helicopter. Hospital staff placed blankets and other gifts on a bed for the boy.

“It raised her spirits to see even a blanket on the bed,” Hendriksen said.

Hendriksen said toys also help children focus on playing as if they weren’t in a hospital for the holidays.

“When items are given to them, they start thinking about what’s in front of them instead of their illness,” Hendriksen said. “It helps them become a kid, just as if they were at home and having fun and not

thinking of things like illness.”

The toy drive goes through Dec. 22. Members of the community will be collecting new toys, which donors can drop off at three different businesses: Equality Utah, Utah Pride Center and QSaltLake, organizations dedicated to spreading news about gay rights and helping people secure equality.

Whipple said the goal is to gather enough toys so each child has one for the holidays.

When toys are dropped off at the various sites, people will have the opportunity to find out a little more about what these specific organizations are about, Whipple said.

Whipple said the community also plans to use the toy drive as an opportunity to spread the message about gay rights.

The toy drive will not only benefit children at the hospital, but the families as well, Hendriksen said.

“Parents and siblings have difficulty too with a child, brother or sister in the hospital,” she said.

Although it will be hard for people to donate during a time of economic downfalls, the organizers and the hospital are hopeful for a successful drive.

“It makes me happy that in a difficult time, there are those that are thinking beyond themselves…thinking about children that can benefit from their generosity,” Hendriksen said.

[email protected]