Township toy drive hits bump in the road because of COVID

With schools still closed, students will have to adjust plans

Washington Township High School junior and senior officers are holding onto hope for their annual toy drive on Dec 8 and 10, after the district announced schools will remain closed until the day before the event.

“I am hoping that it is still a go, because if we’re not in school we can’t do it,” said Carol Costello, junior/senior class advisor. “The high school is closed now until next Friday. So I am praying because the need is still out there, COVID or no COVID.”

The pandemic has impacted the annual toy drive, a staple in the community for over 25 years. The most recent bump in the road was an announcement made on Nov. 23 that the high school will extend its closure until Dec 7, a day before the drive.

“We were supposed to go back Nov. 30,” Costello said. “Now we are going back Dec. 7 … If schools are closed there is nothing we can do.”

Every year, the juniors and seniors accept donations of toys for children in need and Santa makes an appearance for photos. After all the toys are collected, the students spend all night in the school organizing them.

Due to COVID, the school has already had to cancel the all-nighter and has  moved the toy drive outdoors, with small groups of 12 students. And Santa will have to make his appearance from a social distance of 6 feet.

“We had 24 student officers, so we had to split them as if they were in cohorts,” Costello explained. “They have to be masked the whole time; they have to be socially distant.” 

The students will still bring Christmas cheer by writing greeting cards to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Camden. The toys will be collected and quarantined before being delivered to families in the township as well as the Ronald McDonald House, Youth and Family Services and local churches.

“I am praying it happens next week,” Costello said. “I am still doing flyers and things. We are ready to roll.”

Another challenge for the drive is that the annual Christmas concert will have to be conducted virtually on Dec. 17. The concert is normally scheduled for the same night as the toy drive, but given this year’s virtual format, the drive is without its main source of income. 

“Hopefully the tradition has been there and all our former officers and other people who have done it year after year will know,” Costello said. “It’s truly by advertisement. No one knows what to expect. I would love to say it won’t be smaller, but we don’t know.

“The need is there, now more than ever,” she added. “But we just don’t know. I am more worried about kids waking up with nothing.”