Campus project brings gifts to local children

Timothy Lake

As the winter holiday season arrives, the Catholic Campus Center has started its Giving Tree Project to help provide gifts for underprivileged children.

The Giving Tree Project concept involves a participant choosing an angel from one of the trees, buying the gift that is on it, and returning it so that it may be distributed to children throughout Topeka. There are many trees around campus, in the offices of various organizations that help with the project.

The three charities that the center distributes the toys to are, Topeka Rescue Mission, Let’s Help, and Doorstep.

This year’s edition of the project began Nov. 5, and gifts will be accepted through Dec. 2. People who want to help in another way can help to distribute the toys to the charities that will give the toys to the kids, on Dec. 3.

The idea of the project started in 2002, when the Catholic Campus Center wanted to put a few trees on campus, but was not allowed to. The only tree they had that year was in their own room, said Jeffrey Leiker, president of the Catholic Campus Center.

The roots of the concept of the Giving Tree Project originate in another project called the angel tree project. They continue to do the Giving Tree Project every year because of the tradition that has been set, as well as they chose this idea specifically because the angel tree was recognizable.

“Five organizations work with the Center on the project, including WSGA, multicultural affairs, Residential Living, Campus Ministries and Zeta Tau Alpha,” said Leiker.

Many of the gifts include clothes, with a few educational toys, puzzles and occasionally sports toys.

Organizers were worried about the success of the program in 2008 when the recession initially hit, but they were still able to get around 200 gifts in the project, according to Leiker.

They expect that this year they should be able to get at least that much success, though they hope for more.

“I personally think its a wonderful opportunity even before I came to Washburn I participated in the angel tree project back at home,” said Leiker. “Every year whenever I was late-night shopping at Walmart grab an angel and buy a gift, and just kind of goes into, its more of a blessing to be on the muscle part of it, for lack of a better term, the actual inside part, with an even better chance of helping these kids out.”