Oh what fun

A pair of step-sisters enjoy Adopt-A-Tot in classrooms right next to each other

Samantha Joslin , Copy Editor

With the memory of a picture with Santa and choir Christmas songs dancing through their heads, four-year-old step-sisters Al’Layah Coby and Mydiyonna Williams embark on a trip through the big-kid sized halls and frighteningly tall lockers on their way to classrooms where Christmas decorations, gifts and snacks prepared specially for them wait. Student Council, as well as 46 classrooms, have been preparing to welcome children like Coby and Williams for Adopt-A-Tot.

“It takes months of planning,” Student Council publicist Claudia Shamit said. “We’ve been working on this since the beginning of October. It’s a lot of work, but it’s really beneficial to see how everything turns out. It’s worth it in the end.”

This year, 46 classrooms raised money to buy toys as well as necessities like toilet paper and laundry detergent for families with children who attend the Growing Futures Early Education Center (GFEEC) in Overland Park. Participation in Adopt-A-Tot has been on a steady increase since the program began, since Northwest partnered with GFEEC in 2003, according to Student Council sponsor Sarah Dent.

GFEEC is a non-profit organization that provides early education for children of low-income families. If a family’s annual income falls below a certain level, they become eligible for Adopt-A-Tot. After that, it’s a matter of students committing to raise money for gifts. Student Council reaches out to parents to see if they’d like to claim the opportunity.

Coby and Williams go to school at GFEEC and couldn’t wait to participate in the event — although they had a different idea of what it would be like.

“The school told me that it was just a celebration that you guys do for them,” Coby and Williams’ mother, Aiesha Coby, said. “We thought they’d just do arts and crafts and play — we never thought they would have presents and Santa.”

Coby, Williams and Aiesha were further surprised by the size and excitement of the event. The girls, aged three months and 11 days apart, were led to their rooms and werevery pleased they were in classrooms right next to each other. This allowed Aeisha to be able to check up on both daughters and for the girls (who, despite not being related, are very close) to be near each other.

“ calls ‘her bestest sister,’” Aeisha said. “They sleep and eat and do everything together and are absolutely best friends. When either one is away, they miss each other so much.”

Coby and Williams have four brothers ranging from ages seven to age two. While the older boys were not in the Shawnee Mission School District when they were eligible, the younger two are looking forward to participating in Adopt-A-Tot when they enroll at GFEEC next year.

After tearing open reindeer-plastered wrapping paper and eating high schooler-endorsed snacks, Coby and Williams went home to their brothers to play with their new Candy Land board game and tea party set (which Coby adamantly insisted she wouldn’t share). Aeisha believes that her daughters, in addition to their gifts, received “love and happiness.”

“That’s why I love Adopt A Tot,” Dent said. “You raise money, you buy gifts, you give them to the family and you see where your donations go. You get to see what giving looks like, and that feels good. We’re talking about teaching empathy.”