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Nansemond-Suffolk Academy students Joelle Pond, Macy Mears, Jessica Pieroni, Jake Grady, Ashley Shahid, Morgan Davis and Clare Kelly stuff the bus for Toys for Tots. The school collected toys for the annual U.S. Marine Corps Reserves campaign and stuffed them in a school bus for the third straight year.
Nansemond-Suffolk Academy students Joelle Pond, Macy Mears, Jessica Pieroni, Jake Grady, Ashley Shahid, Morgan Davis and Clare Kelly stuff the bus for Toys for Tots. The school collected toys for the annual U.S. Marine Corps Reserves campaign and stuffed them in a school bus for the third straight year.

NSA gives to Toys for Tots, Suffolk Humane

Published 10:37pm Thursday, December 12, 2013

An effort by students, faculty, staff and administration at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy to collect toys for underprivileged children at Christmas culminated in a yellow bus departing the campus Thursday with a load of holiday cheer.

Meanwhile, the academy had also collected pet supplies as part of its “Stuffing the Community” holiday drive, and canine mascot Bernie the St. Bernard was on hand to pass those goods on to the Suffolk Humane Society.

“This is another amazing Christmas at NSA,” said John Woleben, Toys for Tots coordinator in Suffolk. “The boxes are just about full, and with the extra kids we have to serve this year, this is going to be outstanding.”

Woleben was referencing the fact that, according to the Salvation Army’s estimates, 1,000 more needy Suffolk children than last year are hoping to receive a gift beneath the tree thanks to the grace of campaign supporters.

NSA’s effort was spurred on when Kim Aston, dean of students in the upper school and coordinator of the student leaders for Toys for Tots, reported this increased need, spokeswoman Ashley Greene said.

“That really boosted the efforts of our students in the last few days, knowing that there would be more children in need of Christmas presents this year,” Greene said. “The front office was filled pretty quickly, knowing there would be an even greater need.”

The donations are in memory of Hunter Richardson, a 2004 NSA graduate who died at the hands of a drunk driver on the 2009 Thanksgiving weekend.

Aston, a 1988 graduate, middle school counselor Tracy Grady and assistant head of lower school Jean Mauck collaborated to kick off the campus-wide holiday drive in 2011.

Stuff the bus, where students literally do just that before the toys are hauled off for distribution to needy kids, had originated when 2010 graduate Mackenzie Westfall, along with the Student Council, encouraged the school to take it up.

“I know they are excited when thy talk about Toys for Tots,” Greene said. “It definitely makes them aware of the community need.”

Greene said giving back is part of NSA’s mission.

“We are working to grow leaders with our community service,” she said.

Other examples of the school’s giving back include collecting winter coats as well as canned goods, she said.

In their giving, Woleben said the students displayed the true spirit of Christmas.

“It’s giving back, it’s not just receiving,” he said. “That’s what Christmas is all about.”

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