For 15 years, Stapley Junior High School in Mesa, Arizona, has enjoyed a heartwarming community tradition. The annual Toys for Tots drive, led by PE teacher Dana Dobson and student council members, has raised more than $100,000 to ensure Arizona children enjoy a happier holiday.
Throughout the years, the beloved fundraiser has grown to include a mini-parade and toy truck escort. The American Legion Riders and the El Zaribah Shiners Motorcycle Unit, complete with performing clowns, delight attendees. The East Valley Young Marines post colors with the culmination of a holiday musical performance by the Sabercats choir, band and orchestra.
“The purpose of our toy drive is to make the holidays brighter for disadvantaged Arizona children,” Dobson says.
This year, COVID-19 nearly hindered the students’ positive work. However, the Stapley community was undeterred. In November, the school hosted a virtual version of the fundraiser so students could continue their legacy of service learning.
Homeroom classes coordinated efforts where students competed for daily and overall prizes. The friendly, spirited drive garnered astounding results that included monetary donations, toys, and gift cards. Collectively, students raised more than $5,600 to benefit Shriners Hospitals for Children and Sunshine Acres Children’s Home.
Principal James Fisher shares that he is thankful to the students, staff and community for all their donations.
“This year’s Toys for Tots was a complete success,” Fisher says. “Without the community’s hard work, this would not be possible. Our school was able to help so many children this holiday season.”
Dobson shares that the past five years the school has focused on donating more locally, with Sunshine Acres Children’s Home as their main charity. Sunshine Acres provides a safe home for children who are separated from their parents and helps them establish long-term relationships with stable parental figures, preparing them for success in adult life.
“This year the bulk of donations will go to Sunshine Acres, and every child at the home will receive a substantial gift from Stapley Junior High,” Dobson says.