Sac State students collaborate to provide gifts

Sacramento State students and Sunburst Projects have come together to bring gifts of both toys and necessities to children in need. Attached to each star is the name of a child and the present they would like to receive for Christmas.

Sacramento State students and Sunburst Projects have come together to bring gifts of both toys and necessities to children in need. Attached to each star is the name of a child and the present they would like to receive for Christmas.

Camille Anglo

Sacramento State has collaborated with Sunburst Projects for “Wish Upon a Star,” a gift drive for the holiday season that donates presents to children whose families have been affected with HIV or AIDS.

Assistant director of operations for the University Union Norma Sanchez said “Wish Upon a Star” is a great way for students and staff to help during the holidays.

“We’ve been assisting them for 11 years,” Sanchez said. “It’s a great way to get the Sac State community involved and to be able to give a little bit back.”

Sunburst Projects event coordinator Jennifer Novak said the organization has been working with Sac State and has always ran a successful gift drive with presents that range from large to small.

“For most of our kids, these are the only gifts they’re going to receive this Christmas,” Novak said. “That’s why sometimes they’re extravagant and sometimes they’re as simple as an alarm clock or backpack and school supplies that will get them through the rest of the school year. It really depends on a lot of poverty-level families that we deal with.”

Novak said the process takes time and requires the help of both parties.

“We have hundreds of children affected with HIV and AIDS and the generosity of Sac State helps provide for these children for Christmas,” Novak said. “I create the wishes and (Sac State) collects them. (I) throw a big party every year (where) Santa comes in and gives the (donated) gifts to all the kids that are at that party.”

Some participants may not get what they asked for, but Novak said she always makes sure all the children who wished for something will get something in return.

“Every year, I am able to make every kid happy,” Novak said. “If they don’t get specifically what they want, I will make sure that they will get a Target gift card that will allow them to get (that gift) or I will take that Target gift card and send them a letter to get that specific toy that the child might want that year, but we just didn’t get.”

Novak said she will take a wish from any child, even if they aren’t a part of Sunburst Projects.

“We take wishes from anyone that is a Sunburst kid and (other kids) out there in the community who are with other AIDS agencies,” Novak said. “We don’t want any kids left behind.”

Irene Ross, an HIV-positive grandmother who has been involved with Sunburst Projects for 21 years said the best part about the gift drive is when she and other women in program reunite during the holidays.

“When we come together at the end of the year for the Christmas celebration, it’s not only just to see the smile on the kids’ face, but it gives me a heartfelt feeling to know that the women made it another year,” Ross said.

Ross, whose children and grandchildren have been involved with Sunburst Projects, said she appreciates the assistance “Wish Upon A Star” provides during the Christmas season.

“The economy is bad and when you are a parent who is dealing with HIV or have children with HIV it makes life so difficult,” Ross said. “The extra help from outside sources that let us know that people are not afraid of us to help us and reach out, we appreciate it 100 percent.”

Sanchez said she feels the gift drive brings the best out of Sac State because of the generosity of many students.

“I like how the Sac State community is so willing to make donations,” Sanchez said. “Some of these kids are asking for ankle socks or a warm, hooded sweatshirt, some of the basics. (Some) ask for fun stuff, like a bicycle. We have several students that are pitching in together to get one bicycle. Then, some of them ask for movie tickets, which is something they really can’t do on a regular basis because of their situation or financial situation. It’s just nice that Sac State is so willing to give back to families that are in need.”

Novak said Sac State has never let her down with “Wish Upon A Star.”

“I’ve never been disappointed with Sac State,” Novak said. “(They) have always saved me year after year with gifts for the kids. I’m so grateful because ‘Wish Upon a Star’ is like the giving tree. I’m in awe every year because someone decides to step up to the plate and buy a present or two and I have worked with the greatest people on this project.”

The top priority of the gift drive is to fulfill the wish of every child, Novak said.

“My specific goal is to meet the needs of my kids’ goals because I have a slew of teenage girls, young like 13-year-old girls and they just want gift cards for make-up and things like that,” Novak said.

The “Wish Upon a Star” toy drive runs until Friday and will be accepting gifts from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the first floor of the University Union.

Camille Anglo can be reached at [email protected]