LIFE

Longhorns hold holiday toy drive

San Diego Longhorns members (from left) Cooper Cote, Chase Hamilton, Emerson Hamilton and Ethan Chuang helped with a toy drive for less fortunate kids in San Diego County. (courtesy photo)

Longhorns hold holiday toy drive

The kids at Lillian J. Rice Elementary School in Chula Vista are more than likely still experiencing the joy of the holiday season, thanks to the efforts of a youth baseball organization in North County that includes Scripps Ranch residents.

The San Diego Longhorns organization is a collection of youth travel baseball teams for ages 8 to 17. One of the founders, Bob Bafia, and Joe Henderson, director of coaching, approached Scripps Ranch resident Valerie Chuang in November about coordinating a holiday season toy drive for kids in lower income areas of San Diego.

Chuang, whose son plays on the 11-year old team, accepted the offer based more on the goal than understanding the process.

“This was the first time I have ever been in charge of a fundraiser,” she said. “I had no idea of what to expect. Each of the eight teams had a parent in charge of their team and those parents all reported to me as to their progress.”

The beneficiary of the efforts was the organization Care House, which serves homeless and at-risk kids throughout San Diego. The idea of the toy drive was launched with Care House providing a list of the toys desired by kids at schools they service.

The holiday season can be a challenging one for many organizations and Care House is no exception. However, it is not just about securing food and basic necessities, but also finding ways to help the kids have fun.

“The message from Bob and Joe was we (San Diego Longhorns) are not just about baseball,” Chuang explained. “We are part of the community and when you are part of a community you give back to it. It was a valuable message for both the parents and kids.”

Coupled with Chaung’s challenge of never having coordinated a fundraiser was this being a first-time effort of the San Diego Longhorns working with Care House. Expectations were neither high nor low, but rather uncertain.

It was determined that the Lillian J. Rice Elementary School would be the recipient of whatever toys could be collected for distribution.

A flyer accompanied with email blasts fueled the initial efforts. Parents from other teams began to deliver the toys to Chuang’s residence.

A delivery date was set when Care House representatives, some parents and kids who participated in the toy drive, and others convened at Lillian J. Rice Elementary School.

“It exceeded everyone’s expectations,” Chuang said. “Care House and the school were overwhelmed with the response to the efforts. There were far more toys than anticipated. Soccer is a popular sport and we had over 30 soccer balls to donate.”

The toys purchased were all brand new, which added to the excitement for the kids at the school.

“The day we delivered the toys, the principal at the school told me that earlier in the day a parent had inquired if there were going to be any extra toys for other kids,” Chuang said. “We had so many donations that Care House and the school were able to expand the list of recipients. It was incredible.”

Chuang, who works remotely as a vice president for the Leo Burnett advertising company based out of Chicago, is not sure what kind of effort will happen for the 2020 holiday season. Nor does she know if she will be the coordinator again, but this challenge gave her satisfaction beyond her imagination.

Chuang mentioned that Longhorns parent Rachel Hamilton was a huge help to her.

“The kindness and generosity of parents and kids, some who I had never met previously because they are associated with different teams within Longhorns, was incredible,” she said. “It was overwhelming and honestly, I think I benefitted the most from this experience.”

For more information on Care House, visit carehousekids.org.

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