By Kayla Anderson
Sparks High School alumni students Cory Olsen and Jorge Nava Jr. came together at the end of November to launch a Sparks High Toy Drive and the idea then snowballed from there. For the past several years, Jorge Nava Jr. has done a turkey drive for Thanksgiving to provide food for families in need, and his friend Cory Olsen also did a small grassroots toy drive for Christmas. With the health pandemic now in full swing thus putting additional financial strain on struggling families during the holidays, the Sparks High friends decided to make it even bigger by launching an official Sparks High Toy Drive.
The group (which also includes Sparks residents Chrissy Perry, Bo Worley, and City Councilman Donald Abbott) plans on accepting donations until December 17 and any overflow of donations received after the Dec. 17 cutoff date through the 22nd will be redistributed.
“Jorge, Cory, and I met on December 4 after I hopped on procuring turkeys and delivering them for Thanksgiving and that’s when we came up with the idea to do a toy drive,” Sparks City Councilman Donald Abbott says.
With the common thread being Sparks High School, the group then reached out to Stephanie Chavez, a family graduate advocate at the Washoe County School District, to see if she could help them identify families in need. She told the group that there are 12 families that could use some presents this year and the alumni soon started spreading the word. Last week Olsen and Abbott dropped off toy boxes to five locations and are accepting donations at participating locations through December 17.
For Cory Olsen, facilitating this toy drive is particularly close to his heart.
“I did a toy drive a couple of years ago by adopting families and driving up and down Fourth Street looking for kids and families in need. I didn’t have a lot growing up and bounced around between hotels and apartments, so I wanted to give back to kids because I’ve been there before. That year I tried to adopt some families…a buddy of mine from high school passed away and left a 4-year-old daughter, so we gave her some toys,” he says.
With all of the people behind this year’s drive, though, it’s been taken to a new level.
“It’s been amazing this year with Jorge, Donald, Bo, and all the businesses that are helping out. I can’t even explain how big this year is,” Olsen says.
“It’s so neat to see, every time I’m part of a fundraiser like this I’m seeing people come out of the woodworks to donate, people who I never would’ve thought to contribute. It warms my heart that the world comes together like this, especially during the pandemic,” Abbott adds.
Here is the current list of items that the Toy Drive is in need of: art supplies- drawing pads, coloring books, painting supplies, etc.; STEM toys like Legos or blocks; all-ages board games and card games like Uno and Monopoly; girl and boy toys in the 5-12-year-old age range; outdoor activity/sports stuff; music on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, and/or headphones; gift cards to Walmart, Target, or local restaurants.
People can drop off new unwrapped toys for kids ages five and up, gift cards for teens, or any other types of donations at the Engine 8 Urban Winery, Lake Bar & Grill, Mari Chuy’s Mexican Kitchen, and Sparks & Smoke BBQ through December 17.