St. Jude gets a visit from St. Nick


Ally Jones

Senior Samantha Stephan with a few of the toys donated.

Ally Jones
A.P U.S teacher Laurie Chetelat’s students pose with a few of the donated toys. The class donated toys to the good cause.

Have a holly, jolly Christmas, it is the best time of the year! It will be a jolly time thanks to the students and staff at Stephen Decatur High School, the children at St. Jude Children’s Hospital will be able to cheer.  

At St. Jude, young patients face multiple challenges on top of life-threatening illnesses, a struggle even more difficult to overcome during what should be the happiest season of all. Unable to enjoy opening gifts by their own Christmas trees, gathering around the fireplace, and sharing meals and memories with their families, it can be hard to find joy for the holidays.  

Senior Samantha Stephan was inspired to bring the kids some Christmas cheer through a toy drive, which she reached out to service group Connections to sponsor. Nov. 12 to Dec.7, a plethora of toys and games were gathered to be sent to St. Jude’s multiple locations. The toys collected range from barbie dolls to monster trucks. 

In bringing the idea to adviser Laurie Chetelat of Connections, Samantha was driven by the dire need of happiness in the hospital environment. “Even though St. Jude pays for the patients’ treatments and housing, many parents stopped working in order to be with their child. Cutting down their income, I knew many would struggle finding money to give their child gifts for Christmas,” she explains.  

When asked about her connection to St. Jude, Stephan told The Hawk, “two years ago, my then three-year-old cousin Stella was diagnosed with acute megakaryoblastic leukemia. She and my aunt had to move to St. Jude immediately, starting her on chemotherapy that lasted seven months.” Acute megakaryoblastic leukemia (AMKL) is a subtype of leukemia caused by an abnormality making aspirations difficult. 

The toy drive has led Stephan to gain more knowledge on leadership, integrity, and compassion. As a member of the National Honor Society, Connections volunteer group, and Decatur’s swim team, the high-achieving student recognizes the importance of giving back to her community.  

On behalf of the Connections group, The Hawk would like to give a special thank you to everyone that has contributed. St. Jude’s children will be delighted to know that they will have an extraordinary Christmas provided by caring members of communities around the nation.