Pali High Grad Rallies to Collect Funds for LA Elementary School Ahead of the Holidays
By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief
This year—maybe more than ever—we could all use a little holiday magic.
That is exactly what Ariel Wilbur, a Palisades Charter High School graduate, is hoping to deliver to 625 students through the Hoover Elementary School Toy Drive, hosted by Southwestern Law School’s Latino Law Students Association.
Wilbur, currently in her third year at Southwestern, is an active member of LLSA, which, each year for nearly two decades, has hosted a toy drive for young, underprivileged students who attend Hoover Elementary School in Los Angeles.
Every student is invited to write a letter to Santa requesting a special gift, which is then delivered by LLSA and the Southwestern community during what is called “Santa Day.”
“I’ve interacted with the Hoover Elementary community and they’re just—for little kids too—they’re so gracious and they’re so polite,” Wilbur shared. “They’re just so happy to get anything, even just us acknowledging them, it’s just so amazing.”
This year, due to COVID-19, the drive has shifted to virtual—instead of hosting a series of events on campus, including passing out flyers and holding meetings to find sponsors for each student starting as early as October, LLSA shifted to collecting funds online. Wilbur and her peers reached their 2020 fundraising goal in just a few weeks.
The funds raised will first cover everything from presents to wrapping paper and other miscellaneous items to make the day come to light, including tape, scissors, etc. LLSA volunteers will then wrap the gifts—which Wilbur explained are often the only present the students will receive during the holidays—at home before they are delivered to Hoover.
“We wanted to reach a certain amount of money and then we would buy the toys,” Wilbur explained. “Then [we will] deliver them to school and have only a certain amount of people interact with the kids, because we still want it to be the same event that they’re used to every year.”
But even with the fundraising goal hit, the work is not done: LLSA will continue to collect donations for the school, with everything additional raised going toward things like uniforms, supplies for students and teachers, and other necessities the school sees fit.
“It’s amazing,” Wilbur shared. “Just getting a toy is amazing, but we want to do something more.”
By expanding the fundraiser, LLSA is hoping to help additional students, which she shared will help keep the kids focused on school—their time away from whatever they may be dealing with at home.
Santa Day is scheduled for December 17 and 18 this year, and though she has been involved behind the scenes in years past, Wilbur is one of the very limited number of people that will get to attend this year in-person.
“It just especially is hitting home because I know that Southwestern is one of the most diverse law schools in California, so a lot of people who are here—students and even teachers—are from this kind of background, it just hits home for them,” Wilbur explained. “They might have been in the same situation as these kids, and then when we meet them, it’s very emotional.”
Wilbur is now turning to the community that raised her to request extra assistance with donations to make this year’s Santa Day and beyond special for the students of Hoover.
Her roots in the Palisades are deep: Wilbur’s grandparents raised her mom and siblings in the Alphabet Streets in the same home they’ve lived at for more than 60 years. Wilbur said that she basically grew up in the house, attending Corpus Christi School and ultimately graduating in 2013 from Pali High.
She played basketball at Palisades Recreation Center for years, using free time to volunteer at Corpus Christi and the assisted living facility. She fondly recalled attending Movies in the Park each summer.
Wilbur shared that she is looking forward to attending Santa Day for the first time this year, to see the work she puts into raising funds and awareness come to fruition.
“I will finally be able to go on campus,” she said. “Since it’s my last year, I really wanted to get out with a bang, I’ll actually be there.”
For more information about Santa Day or to donate, visit swlaw.edu/node/20126.
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