JCU students find ways to spread holiday cheer

December 10th, 2009

Christmas is in the air at John Carroll.  Although the temperatures have dropped, the age-old spirit of generosity is on the rise. Even among broke college students, no one says “Bah, humbug!” when it comes to giving.

How Students Give

As John Carroll’s mission states, its students are men and women for others.  One of the most prominent times to witness this is during the holiday season. Between University-sponsored events and individual efforts, many JCU students find some way to give to others.

For the past two years, sophomore Megan Lutz said, “I buy gifts for the Giving Tree instead of actually buying gifts for my family.”

The Giving Trees are Christmas trees adorned with ornaments. On the back of each ornament is information about a child and a gift they would like to receive from “Santa.” A student then buys the present and leaves it unwrapped at a given location.

On Christmas morning, Lutz shows her family the tag she selected.  “I think it makes me more willing [and] more excited to give to people,” she said.

Freshman Brendan Hancock said, “I love giving!”  Every year, he and his mom get an underprivileged child’s Christmas list and try to buy as much of it as possible.  Brendan said that this helps relieve the guilt that we all sometimes feel.

Through the Eyes of a Child

This past Saturday, Dec. 5, the University hosted “Through the Eyes of a Child.” The event was sponsored by Circle K, a college-level community service program.  For this event, JCU invited 110 children from underprivileged families to the Student Center.  Here, they got to play games in the IM gym, decorate cookies, and sit on Santa’s lap. The children would tell Santa what they wanted and he would hand them the gift the child’s JCU buddy had chosen for them.

Upon checking in, each child was assigned a “buddy”—a student from John Carroll with whom they would spend the day.  Five-year-old Makhyya enjoyed making cookies and cutting out snowflakes with her buddy.  Ja’Quain Williams said simply that his favorite part of the day was “everything.”  He and his buddy got to play racquetball, check out the indoor track, and Williams even got a football as his gift.

Student volunteers also enjoyed themselves.  Sophomore Ben Szweda said, “[the Christmas season] makes people more generous, there was an overflow of people.” Along with a high number of student volunteers was the massive  number of presents donated this year.  So many presents were brought that there were actually extras, said Szweda.  Even our JCU Santa Claus, (Nick Toney) cheerily said, “I do this every year ‘cause it’s fun! You get to hang out with little kids.”

Charity Beyond the Diploma

The Blessing House is a charity organization that offers help to children from birth to age 12 who live in crisis situations. The John Carroll Alumni Association donates to this organization.

Sister Mary Berigan, SND, a director for The Blessing House, said that John Carroll has been a big asset to the organization. “I know that the Jesuits have always been very social justice oriented,” she said, “It’s very impressive.” The Blessing House expected that the rough economy would mean a season of less donations; but to their surprise, there was actually an increase.

“The number of people that want to help… says a lot for the human spirit,” said Berigan.

The donations they receive come in all different forms. “We take whatever God sends to us,” she said. Financial support is always welcome, but, for those who cannot afford large donations, they also appreciate volunteers for food drives and fundraisers. “We really believe that people give whatever they can,” she said.

Despite the pressures of finals, the chaos of holiday shopping, and the frigid Cleveland weather, JCU students and alumni gladly open their hearts to charity during this Christmas season.  Whether as part of a group, club, organization or individually, everyone seems to enjoy the yuletide opportunity to be someone else’s Santa Claus.