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Old 12-13-2017, 01:28 PM
Newton Daily News Newton Daily News is offline
 
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Default Christmas in the Gym

Last year teacher Steve Weeks discovered the magic formula. For years, students in the Key Club at Newton Community High School have been collecting toys for needy children during the last home basketball game before the holiday break, but it wasn’t until last year that the event really took off.

Weeks, who is also the high school’s cross country coach, decided last year to make the event into a competition and even created a traveling trophy that would go to the school that brought in the most donated toys.

“If I’ve learned anything it’s that arbitrary competition gets people motivated,” Weeks said.

Weeks and his helpers, students in the school’s Key Club, were overwhelmed. They’d gone from collecting an average of 40 to 50 toys at the event, to bringing in a haul of just under 500 toys during the game last year. Brihana Peague, a senior at NHS and co-president of the Key Club, said she was blown away by the community’s generosity last year.

“People get so into this, last year we had this huge competition and it was amazing to see all the gifts that we got,” Peague said. “It felt really good to sit there and have so many gifts, that’s a good problem to have.”

Students at Woodrow Wilson Elementary took home the trophy in 2016, but Weeks said the race was close right up until the end, with students at Woodrow Wilson facing a tough challenge from their peers at Thomas Jefferson Elementary. Weeks determined the winner by counting to see which school raised the most toys per capita, and when the dust settled the students at Woodrow Wilson had edged out a narrow victory.

“There was some friendly banter going back and forth,” Weeks said.

Students who donate a toy also receive a raffle ticket that gives them a chance to win prizes donated by local businesses. Peague said she and other members of the Key Club have been networking with businesses in Newton to make sure they’ve got plenty of items to raffle off next week. After moving to Newton from Arizona before her sophomore year, Peague initially joined Key Club to meet new friends, but after participating in her first Christmas in the Gym, she was hooked.

“It feels good to give back, and it’s a great way to meet a lot of people in the community,” Peague said.

As he’s preparing to host another Christmas in the Gym, Weeks said he hopes those in the community that are interested in donating don’t forget to think about young children and pre-teens during the toy drive as well. Many of the toys donated last year were for elementary age children, and Weeks said he hopes older children won’t feel left out.

“It’s really easy to shop for kids that are 6, 7, 8, but shopping for someone who is 2, 3 and 13, 14 is really a desired area,” Weeks said. “It’s so easy to go into the toy aisle and grab Paw Patrol this and Transformers that, but no 13-year-old kid wants Paw Patrol.”

Christmas in the Gym, the Newton High School Key Club’s annual toy drive will be held Tuesday, Dec. 19 during the basketball doubleheader against Oskaloosa. Games will take place in both the upper and lower gyms, starting at 4:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 for adults, and $3 for students. To participate in the toy drive participants need to bring a new, unwrapped toy to the game.

Contact David Dolmage at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or ddolmage@newtondailynews.com




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