SOMERS, N.Y. -- With Holiday Spirit Week in progress at Somers High School, students are also being asked to spread the holiday cheer to young area cancer patients.
On Friday, Dec. 16 -- designated "Candy Cane Day," where students are welcomed to wear the school colors of red and white -- students are urged to bring in unopened toys.
Student members of the Somers Cancer Research Club are organizing the drive, in partnership with Friends of Karen, the North Salem-based organization that supports critically ill kids and their families.
"We fill the wish lists of our ill children and their siblings -- probably about 950 children," Judith Factor, executive director of Friends of Karen, told Daily Voice. "We want to make sure that these children and their siblings don't miss out on a wonderful holiday."
The group doesn't wrap the toys, but sends them along to the families, accompanied by wrapping paper, stocking stuffers and other items to help with the holiday.
Factor added that an important aspect of the holiday program is relieving stress for parents who are going through the painful experience of a sick child.
"It's one less thing for the parents to have to worry about."
The organization support to over 650 families a year, providing personalized assistance that includes emotional support and general guidance, as well as financial assistance.
"We've been doing (the toy drive) for a very long time, and we're very grateful for the students at Somers High, for their help," Factor said.
"This time of year, when people are really in the giving mode, that's when we stock our toy pantry for the year," she added. The group uses toys from the holiday drive throughout the year, to provide birthday gifts to families in its program.
"We have great support from all aspects of this community, from the high school, middle school, Lions Club ... . We are very grateful for all the support we receive."
The toys can be dropped off in the tech lounge. Students in the club have already dropped off one batch of toys they've collected, and they will drop off another batch after this drive at the high school.
"We have a lot of organizations, and a lot of kids, that are involved," Factor said, "a lot of parents who try to set a good example for their children.
"It's about a community coming together to support families that are under stress. That's what's so heartwarming about it."