By Carissa Lucas ’10

Hundreds of children in the Central Texas area will have a new toy to play with this Christmas thanks to students from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. This is the eighth year for students in the ‘Sader Sports Medicine Association to partnered with Toys for Tots of Waco to provide new toys for underprivileged children in Central Texas.

Toys for Tots is organized each year by the United States Marine Corps Reserve. In 1991, the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation was created and has provided the funding for the program ever since. Since the foundation was created, they have supplemented local toy collections with 81.3 million toys.

The UMHB Sports Medicine Association, a student-led organization comprised mostly of athletic training students, decided to get involved in the Toys for Tots organization in 2002. Billy Laxton, head athletic trainer at UMHB, thought it was the perfect opportunity to help students provide beyond themselves.

“We wanted to do something positive for the community. Eight years ago no one in this area was working with this toy drive and it was at the height of deployment to the Middle East, so it just seemed like a good fit,” said Laxton.

The Toys for Tots program is a community-wide event, and because of their involvement, the UMHB student organization is now a certified a toy collection site. There are many others throughout the Central Texas area.

“The Marine Corps Reserve brings us boxes every year, and we do our best to fill them up with new toys,” said Laxton. “In recent years we’ve had such a good turn out, they had to bring us more boxes because we had so many toys.”

Laxton said he continues to be surprised by the amount of toys they receive from the Temple and Belton community.

“We get anywhere from 80 to 160 toys each year,” said Laxton. “I’m just inspired and overwhelmed by people’s continued generosity.”

Whitney Rodgers, a senior athletic training major and president of the group, donates many toys to the cause every year.

“I just went out and bought like 20 toys,” said Rodgers. “It’s our way to give back. It’s better to get a new toy than a hand-me-down.”

The students will continue to take donations through the week of Dec. 6. After the Salvation Army collects their donations, the toys will be given to children in the Central Texas area for Christmas.

Junior athletic training major Tara Humphrey said she will continue to participate in the Toys for Tots drive in the future.

“I think Toys for Tots is a great cause,” said Humphrey. “It gives children a chance to have a good Christmas. And after all, isn’t the true gift of Christmas giving rather than receiving?”

This year, the local Marine Corps Reserve unit that usually sponsors the Toys For Tots drive in Bell County is currently deployed in Afghanistan. Consequently, the Toys for Tots will be picked up this year by the Salvation Army.