As the holiday season approached, students of La Sierra University, a Seventh-day Adventist school in Riverside, California, United States, distributed gifts of toys and quilts to brighten the days and warm the nights of young people facing big challenges.
Members of the La Sierra University Golden Eagles baseball team, led by coach Gabriel Gamboa, conducted a campus-wide toy drive in late November 2018 to benefit patients of the pediatric hematology/oncology unit at the Pediatric Specialty Clinics in San Bernardino, California, United States, an outpatient service of Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital.
Earlier that month, students in two religion classes helped pack quilts donated by the university’s Stahl Center for World Service. The quilts were shipped for distribution to those who had lost their homes during the devastating Camp Fire that destroyed most of the city and surrounding areas of Paradise, California.
On Friday, November 30, the Golden Eagles baseball team members paraded into the pediatric clinic carrying a big box decorated with holiday wrapping and overflowing with Christmas cheer — action figures, games, dolls, plastic building block kits, bubble shooters, plastic animal figures, and many other toys. More than 100 toys altogether were donated by the campus, including more than 30 toys that were purchased and contributed by team members and their families.
Toys for Patients
Accompanied by clinic staff, the ballplayers handed out some of the toys to youngsters who came that day with family members for their appointments. Clinic staff later gave out the remainder of the toys to patients as they arrived for treatment. The clinic's patients, who range in age from infants to 24 years old, visit for various types of treatments, including chemotherapy infusions.
“It’s good, awesome,” said 15-year-old Charles Keehn when asked what it was like to receive gifts from a couple of the players who lingered to chat with him. They gave Keehn a BrickHeadz Lego® set and a kinetic sand molding kit.
Golden Eagles outfielder and senior marketing and business management major Josh Jubile expressed a similar sentiment from a different viewpoint. "It was a blessing giving the toys to the kids, and I couldn't be more grateful for the opportunity to give back to the community," he said. His mother, Aurora Jubile, organized the toy drive this year as well as a first-team toy giveaway last Christmas.
For Josh Jubile, the best part of the outreach experience was interacting with the youngsters. “I had a better time engaging with the kids and their families and inviting them to our future baseball games than actually handing out the toys,” he said. “Taking the time to hang out with the kids and talk to them about their life was what really mattered to me.”
“It was an amazing experience. Going in I did not know what to expect, but I knew I wanted to bring out a smile on each kid I talked to,” said Justin Shields, an outfielder and freshman business management major. “Personally this experience allowed me to take in new perspectives. I hope one day I can really help more children in rougher circumstances than me.”
Quilts of Comfort
On November 16, 102 students from two “Jesus and the Gospels” religion classes taught by Stahl Center director Robert Roth packed 75 quilts from the Stahl Center collection effort into boxes for shipping to Northern California, where they were distributed to some residents who had lost their homes in the massive Camp Fire.
The previous month, Roth’s students shipped 400 quilts to Lifeline Chicago for delivering along with Christmas gifts, clothing, and other supplies to orphanages, shelters, hospitals, and soup kitchens in the country of Serbia.
The quilts are part of the Global Quilting project initiated in 1994 by the late Charles Teel, La Sierra University religion professor, scholar, social justice crusader, and Stahl Center founder, who passed away in September 2017. Global Quilting garnered more than 19,000 quilts from quilters, clubs, and non-profit organizations. With help from his students, Teel himself delivered quilts to children in Armenia, South Africa, China, Thailand, Mexico, Peru, and Guatemala, as well as in the United States.
The Global Quilting project now has approximately 250 quilts left. It celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, and Roth is contemplating a "Quilts Project II," he said.
"When I came to La Sierra University, one of my first classes was from Charles Teel," Roth said. "That class rocked and changed my life forever. It was as if I saw the gospel as it was really intended to be … as a verb of life-transforming action and service.
“[Teel] introduced the vision of the Stahl Center to me,” he said, “and I am thrilled to continue walking in the humongous shoes of Ana and Fernando Stahl and Charles Teel. The Stahl Center for World Service mission is to pass a vision of world service to a new generation of college and university students.”