Student Santas: Dakota Ridge pupils learn lesson in giving during Toys for Tots campaign

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By Ramsey Scott

Students at Dakota Ridge High School have been playing Santa, and a lot of happy kids will have toys on Christmas morning as a result.

Thanks to the sophomore student government, Dakota Ridge students spent the past few weeks collecting toys for Toys for Tots. As of Friday, more than 400 toys had been donated.

“It’s been a great reaction,” said Lexi Hogland, 16, the sophomore class president. “The students have been really generous.”

Toys for Tots, a national effort led by the Marine Corps that has been in operation for more than 60 years, collects new toys to be distributed to less fortunate children at Christmastime. 

Hogland helped spearhead the toy drive as part of her student government public service requirement, said Keary Sullivan, a teacher who is the student government sponsor. 

“Each of the kids (in student government) has to choose a 10-hour project to do that’s either school- or civic-minded,” Sullivan said. “… Lexi spearheaded it all. She was the driving force.

“One of the best things is they’re doing something outside of themselves, something they can give back with.”

Marine Sgt. Steve Smoot, a local recruiter, is grateful for Hogland’s help.

“I was just really impressed when I heard (Lexi) wanted to do this,” Smoot said. “It was really neat to see someone that young as interested as she was in helping out the less fortunate.”

Considering this was the first time the school had been a donation site for Toys for Tots, Hogland wasn’t sure what the reaction would be from the student body. 

“Just to get toys — that was my goal” Hogland said. “I was nervous no one would participate, and I think everyone has so far.”

Hogland and the rest of the sophomore student government reached out to the community and found a sponsor in Chic-fil-A. “We were really excited to be part of this,” said Alex Garbo, marketing director for the Chic-fil-A at C-470 and Kipling Street. “It’s incredible to see the passion behind these kids. Lexi is a rock star, and it’s been a cool two weeks partnering with them.”

When Hogland noted that a basketball game was scheduled in December between Dakota Ridge and Bear Creek High, she reached out to Bear Creek and asked the school to participate in the drive, bringing in a few more dozen toys.

“It was a small idea that expanded into a large thing,” said Matthew Meyer, 15, a sophomore student representative. “It’s turned into something really big, and I hope we can do it next year.”

Contact Ramsey Scott at ramsey@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22.