Athletes united to bring holiday joy to New Haven youngsters

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Yale athletes and Sam Burrell on the bus to New Haven's Troup School to deliver holiday gifts.

In the end-of-semester flurry of final papers and exams, some Yale undergraduates added a few other activities to their to-do lists in the spirit of the holiday season: buying gifts and wrapping presents for young New Haven neighbors.

As part of an annual holiday tradition, members of Yale sports teams took part in a drive this year to collect money to buy holiday presents for children at the Augusta Lewis Troup School in the Edgewood neighborhood of New Haven. The members of 21 teams took part in the drive, collecting money and buying presents for students identified by the Troup School administration as being especially in need of holiday cheer.

Each team bought presents from a child’s wish list. On average, they bought four to six presents per child, but some teams contributed even more, according to Claire Huebner, a member of the Yale sailing team, who coordinated the drive with support from Athletics Office staff members Jennifer O’Neil, Erica Egan, and Nadine Logan. Sam Burrell, a former longtime Yale coach, served as the community outreach coordinator for the drive by handling the communications with Troup staff. Burrell was instrumental in starting the athletic teams’ toy drive years ago.

The Troup children who will receive gifts range from kindergartners to 8th-graders, whose wish lists contained items such as clothing, jackets, hats and gloves, and shoes, as well as dolls, action figures, sports equipment, diaries, art supplies, coloring books, and more.

Some teams collected money and then sent a few representatives from their group to do the shopping, while other team members collectively decided on presents and shopped online. Many of the athletes joined in together to help with wrapping the gifts and delivering them to Ray Tompkins House.

“It was incredibly heart warming to walk into Ray Tompkins House where we were storing gifts and see all of the presents filling the room,” Huebner says. “Seeing the generosity of all the teams was incredible, especially as they all took time out of their busy practice and finals schedules to participate.”

A small group of athlete volunteers delivered the toys to Troup School and presented them to school principal Michele Bonara.

“We are all hoping that the [Troup] students have very happy holiday season this year,” says Huebner.

The annual Yale Athletics toy drive is one of many that take place on the campus at the end of the year. Numerous campus departments hold their own toy drives to benefit local children. Two Yale affinity groups held winter socials to benefit local charitable organizations, and a group of graduate students organized a coat drive to help keep New Haven’s newest residents warm this winter by bringing coat donations from the entire Yale community to the nonprofit agency Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services.

Campus & Community