Volunteers organize gifts for 13th annual Student Santa event in Cape Girardeau, MO

Organizing the 13th Student Santa event in Cape Girardeau

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Volunteers came together in Cape Girardeau, Missouri on Tuesday to organize toys for the 13th annual Student Santa event to be held on Christmas Day.

About a dozen Drury Southwest employees took time out of their day to give back to those in need for Christmas.

The volunteers read letters from children describing what items they would like for themselves or for the loved ones they would like to give to for Christmas.

"You come through here and you look at these letters and you may not even think of some of the things they're asking for," Lindsay Bingaman said. "Some things are simple like crayons so they can draw pictures of their friends or a backpack for their dad. It just makes your heart just want to help."

Student Santa Director Megan Hurst has helped with this event for eight years now. She said it's nice to help out our neighbors and feels good to know they are thankful for the help.

"There's so many families that could always use just a little bit more and they are so grateful when you bring stuff to them," Hurst said. "I love seeing the reaction on the kid's faces and on the family's faces. Knowing that you can make a difference at Christmas for a family that doesn't have as much as you do is amazing."

The Student Santa event takes place on Christmas Day from 12 p.m. - 2 p.m. at Jefferson Elementary School in Cape Girardeau. The event is geared towards helping thousands of people.

Student Santa's Founder Jennifer Icaza-Gast said that over the course of the previous dozen years, she feels more are coming forward and accepting help.

"I feel like the need has always been there," Icaza-Gast said. "Now we are able to reach out to more people. It seems like we've gotten double the amount of letters this year as we did last year. So the need has always been there. I just don't think we saw it. Now we are able to really see it."

Icaza-Gast said they are going to be able to help more than 2,000 students alone this Christmas season.

That includes gifts to schools where the families get the presents before the Student Santa event to be able to provide to their children at their home as well.

The volunteers read the letters and picked the toys and other items they specifically wanted and bagged those items up to be ready for them.

A lot of the letters Icaza-Gast reads are not a list of toys. Some are what the child said are items of what the family needs.

"I have so many letters that stick out in my mind," Icaza-Gast stated. "A lot of times I would just go in my bedroom with a roll of toilet paper and cry while I read these letters.

She said there are families that ask for Christmas trees, toothbrushes, soap and more.

"I have little kids that are asking for things for their moms and dads," Icaza-Gast added. "They are incredible some of these letters I read. They want blankets for their siblings. They want beds. A lot of kids are sleeping on floors."

Icaza-Gast also said she hopes helping others will in-turn inspire them to give to others in the future as well.

"If somebody sees somebody giving and see that it really feels good to give, then they in-turn will give," Icaza-Gast said. "It's just a win-win and a great feeling."

The Student Santa event will include food provided by the Isle Casino and The Southerner in Cape Girardeau. This will provide everyone a hot Christmas meal at the event along with presents for the kids, a visit from Santa and more.

Icaza-Gast also said they need help from those wanting to adopt a family for Christmas.

For more information on this event or how to help out, visit their Student Santa Facebook page.

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