Photo courtesy of Thomas A. Edison Career and Technical High School.
Sure, the holidays are over, but the warm feelings inspired by a recent toy drive conducted by SkillsUSA automotive students at Thomas A. Edison Career and Technical Education High School in Queens, N.Y., are still lingering.
The school’s annual car show was the “hook” for the campaign, with Edison’s SkillsUSA executive board deciding to add a toy drive into the mix in the hopes of turning the show into more of a service event for the local community. The students leveraged the support of their industry partners, community members and alumni to make it happen.
One of those partners included the Lincoln Technical Institute, an automotive career training facility also located in Queens. In previous years, the car show was hosted at the school, but, because of increased interest from the local community as a result of the toy-drive component, Lincoln Tech offered to hold the event on their campus … which still didn’t provide enough space for the huge turnout.
Each car show participant was asked to donate 10 new, unwrapped toys. In total, over 200 decked-out, souped-up cars were displayed at the event, and over 500 toy-bringing spectators attended from the community. At one point, the gates to enter the venue had to be shut, because the line stretched out to the expressway in town. SkillsUSA members and alumni helped usher cars and spectators, collected donations, and maintained a safe environment for everyone during the event.
“It was great hosting an event where hundreds of people were having fun, showing off their car builds, and at the same time making a huge impact for those in need,” says student Rachael Khan, the school’s SkillsUSA chapter president.
In total, Edison’s SkillsUSA chapter collected 2,500 new unwrapped toys to be donated to children at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Queens. (The hospital is no stranger to SkillsUSA or the school, as they provide Edison students with work-based learning experiences and internships.)
Before donating the toys, the Edison automotive and collision program sorted and packed the toys by age and gender. The toys were then loaded into a U-Haul truck that was donated and operated by SkillsUSA alumni member Dhaniram Somai. Somai was also the alumni facilitator for the car show and donated his audio and visual equipment for the event.
Due to the pandemic, students were unable to deliver the toys to the hospital, but SkillsUSA advisors Jesse Kalloo and Barry Roopnarine stepped up to the plate and made the delivery themselves.
“Not only did we put a smile on hundreds of children’s faces in the hospital, we brought together hundreds of local community members to a central location to collectively give back,” says Kalloo. “It proves there is power in unity. When we come together as one, we are able to make a huge difference.”
Watch this video for an inside look at this inspiring event.