The "Make A Smile Happen" event Dec. 12-14 raised nearly $17,000 in cash and toys collected for distribution and use to support families in Natchitoches Parish. The M*A*S*H drive produces bags of toys to be delivered to assure less fortunate children receive Christmas presents.
NSU competitors, including members of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, joined Jaycees and Elite Broadcasting personnel in the parking lot of Wal-Mart on Friday. They asked for toy donations, collected monetary donations, and organized and bagged toys.
Natchitoches Area Jaycees president Alan Pasch said the Demons and Lady Demons who pitched in Friday made a major impact on the M*A*S*H event.
"Their assistance really bailed us out. It was quite a nasty, cold and rainy weekend and because of the weather, we had a down year in toy donations," he said. "The only way to offset that shortfall was to increase cash donations. The student-athletes took buckets to the doors and solicited donations. Having their smiling faces there to help collect toys helped as well."
The M*A*S*H initiative collected over $6,000 in cash, said Pasch. The cash is used to buy extra toys needed.
"Much of what we raised was a direct impact of the effort by NSU student-athletes," he said. "I cannot say thank you enough for helping us overcome the weather. The work done by NSU student-athletes will help give 609 Natchitoches children toys to open on Christmas morning."
The SAAC at Northwestern has traditionally staged a service event during the holiday season as part of the "Christmas in the Southland" promotion by the Southland Conference. Often, including in 2012, it has focused on supporting U.S. military troops overseas. This year, NSU student-athletes decided to keep their focus local.
"Our student-athletes and our athletic department believe in giving back to the community that supports us in such a tremendous way all year long," said Carrie Crowell, NSU Athletics' senior woman administrator, head academic coordinator and SAAC advisor. "It made perfect sense in the holiday season to do what we could to contribute to the success of a longstanding local Christmas tradition, the M*A*S*H toy drive. We were proud to play a role in making Christmas better for many local families."
It was the latest in a continuing series of community service endeavors by NSU student-athletes and athletic department personnel. Each year, NSU Athletics provides an average of 5,000 hours work supporting causes locally, regionally and even globally.