10th Annual Michael Isenhour Toy Drive Makes a Difference

Dec. 16, 2010

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by Leah Thomas

The Georgia Tech Student-Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) conducted their 10th Annual Michael Isenhour Toy Drive over the past few weeks to wrap up their fall semester. Each year, for the past 10 years, the SAAB has organized this toy drive and rallied help from their teammates to collect toys (and money) at the final home football game of the season, as well as one men’s basketball game and one women’s basketball game leading up to the Holiday season.

You can’t talk about the toy drive without going back to its origination and giving credit to the founder of the idea. In the fall of 2001, after the September 11th attacks, men’s basketball player, Michael Isenhour came up with the idea of collecting toys during the holiday season that could be sent to the children of 9/11 victims. At the same time, Isenhour was diagnosed with leukemia and did much of the planning and implementing of the toy drive while struggling with the disease. In 2002, later that same school year, Isenhour lost his battle to the cancer. After that display of selflessness, Georgia Tech student-athletes saw it fit to continue the toy drive year after year and name it after Michael Isenhour as a reminder of this fine young man and what he did during a very difficult time in his own life.

Each year, the toy drive is successful in collecting over 1000 toys and up to $8,000 to donate to local charities. This year, three different charities were identified to receive a portion of the toys collected:

The Atlanta Children’s Shelter. Every morning 13,000 people in Atlanta wake up with no place to call home. Approximately 2,500 of them are children. Founded in 1986, the Atlanta Children’s Shelter provides free, quality day care, emotional support, an educational curriculum for homeless children, and focused social services for their families. Dedicated to helping families overcome the issues that contribute to homelessness, including domestic violence and job loss, the Atlanta Children’s Shelter focuses on the long term self sufficiency of the family – which sets them apart from other Atlanta homeless shelters.

Ronald McDonald House of Atlanta. Helping families since 1979, Atlanta Ronald McDonald House Charities provides a home away from home for families of seriously ill and injured children who must travel to receive treatment at Atlanta area children’s hospitals. Families staying in Atlanta’s two Houses can connect with other families, and children can meet other children going through similar experiences. Families stay in comfortable rooms and caring volunteers provide and serve meals each night to parents who otherwise might not take time away from their child to eat.

Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta (BBBS) has been serving the Metro Atlanta area for nearly fifty years. Our goal is to enrich children’s lives and provide a solid foundation to allow the next generation to be all they can be–one child at a time. The Atlanta organization’s rich history is built on a national heritage more than 100 years old. BBBS was founded for the sole purpose of enriching the lives of children and helping them achieve their full potential through professionally-supported, one-to-one mentoring relationships.

The Thursday morning of finals week, three of our student-athletes who did not have a final came down to the Athletic Association, despite the fact that Atlanta had icy roads after a night of freezing rain and that school was closed until 10:00 a.m. that morning, to help load up the toys and get them delivered to the charities. The first stop was the Big Brothers Big Sisters office in downtown Atlanta. They were the charity to actually receive the majority of our toys, as they had the largest pool of children involved in their program. Approximately 15 large garbage bags full of toys were unloaded in their office. They were very grateful and relayed that Georgia Tech “really came through for them”. Turns out, they had planned a Christmas party for their children early the following week and up to now, were worried about where the toys were going to come from. They had anticipated more toys being donated to them up to this point and were beginning to panic. The toy drive took care of their needs.

The second stop was the Atlanta Children’s Shelter. Approximately 100 toys were unloaded there to help stock their “Holiday House” – where families who have children at the day shelter come to “shop” for Christmas presents for the kids. In addition to the toys given to them, Jason Peters, Roddy Jones, and Jessica Sinclair (the three student-athletes helping with the toy delivery) presented Tony Conway, the Development Director at the Atlanta Children’s Shelter, with a check for $5104.68. This is the total amount of money that was collected during the toy drive. He was overwhelmed. He could hardly believe that he was holding a donation check presented by three college students for over $5000! He then shared with us that this money alone would help support one of the families that they work with for an entire six months.

The final stop was the Ronald McDonald House of Atlanta, associated with Egleston Children’s Hospital. They received the remainder of the toys (~75 toys) to help stock their Christmas closet – similar to the Holiday House at Atlanta Children’s Shelter. They were excited to receive so many toys and were also thrilled that the toys were delivered by two Georgia Tech football players and one softball player. All in all, virtually every sport at Georgia Tech contributed to the success of the 10th Annual Michael Isenhour Toy Drive, and on a cold rainy morning in Atlanta, the Georgia Tech student-athletes made a very big impression on three very deserving charities.

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