What began as a school assignment developed into a partnership that would give presents to Kentucky children for the holidays. In collaboration with First Lady Britainy Beshear, University of Kentucky student-athletes are organizing the Cats Holiday Toy Drive to gather new toys and books for kids in Eastern Kentucky who have been affected by the tragic floods.
The First Lady assured the children, "Even though Christmas may look a little different this year, Santa will still be visiting them. So, much as I did in Western Kentucky last year, I'm announcing a toy drive where citizens of our Commonwealth — and the entire nation — can contribute toys.”
The student-athletes, who also included graduate assistants Maleah Abner, Brinkley Berch, and Sam Grant, created the toy drive as their final project for a class taught by Justin Nichols, Ed.D., assistant professor in the UK College of Education Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion. The student-athletes are William Nalty (football), Quintin Wilson (football), Sydney Steely (track & field), and Lesley Kiesling.
The student-athletes were given the duty of developing a community service initiative, which involved planning, staffing, leading/directing, and assessing their project.
When Dr. Nichols gave us this "good deeds" project, the first thing that came to mind was attempting to figure out how to help folks who had been impacted by the recent floods in Eastern Kentucky.
Being a lifelong Kentucky native, finding a method for me to give back to the state was a no-brainer, according to Abner. The morning of Christmas is particularly precious to me. It's an unbelievable feeling to know that I could give even one youngster those same sentiments and memories of Christmases past.
The second choice the students had to choose was how to distribute the donations to the flood victims.
"One of the Lexington Home Depots donated bins to us to get things going. Then, in sporting facilities and the building where our class is located, we placed these bins in various places that we all had connections to.”
After that, we started participating in events like attending UK soccer games and collecting presents from their supporters, as well as attending meetings of various student organizations on campus to explain our project and let people know how they could become involved, according to Abner.
On Sunday, December 4 from noon to 4 p.m., Kroger Field near gate 12 will host a collection event where you can donate gifts. The Gatton Student Center, close to the Fireside Lounge, and The 90, close to the Fresh Food Company, both have donation bins put up right now.
"Seeing so many different people from all over the country come together to help give these kids a holiday season has truly been great for me," said Abner. "We are here... After a few months, we are now able to collaborate with First Lady Beshear. That would be like saying a dream. I never imagined that my tiny group of friends' class project would result in more than 500 toys, and counting.”
Follow the Cats Holiday Toy Drive on Facebook and Instagram at @catsholidaytoydrive for additional details.
Students, teachers, and staff are increasingly choosing the University of Kentucky as their top choice to pursue their interests and career objectives. Forbes listed the United Kingdom as one of the top employers for diversity in the last two years, and INSIGHT into Diversity dubbed us a Diversity Champion for four consecutive years. UK is one of the top 30 campuses in the country for the safety and inclusiveness of LGBTQ* people.
Three years running, the UK has been rated as a "Great College to Work For" and is one of just 22 American colleges on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers." We are in the top 10% of public institutions in terms of research spending, which is a visible indication of the breadth and depth of our university's commitment to knowledge that transforms individuals and societies. And our patients are aware of and grateful for the fact that UK HealthCare has been recognized as the best hospital in the state for five years running. Honors and praise are wonderful. However, they are more significant because of what they stand for, which is the notion that for us to fulfill our objective to be more than just the University, we must foster a sense of community and dedication to greatness.
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