The University of Rio Grande’s Holzer School of Nursing has wrapped up the Open Your Heart to a Child program for the holiday season. Each year the school has teamed up with a local school to provide items children need or want for Christmas. Donna Mitchell, Dean of the College of Professional and Technological Studies said they are working with a middle school to make sure students have gifts for Christmas this year.
“Some parents in this school system do not have money to buy Christmas gifts. These parents will contact the guidance counselor at the school with sizes and items the children would like to have. We write the names on a heart and our students purchase the gift for the child,” Mitchell said. “We chose to team up with this middle school because many of these children may not get gifts because it is easier to get donations for the younger children.These students may have younger brothers and sisters who get something from their schools and organizations. We want to make sure these older children also have a gift to open Christmas morning.”
Each gift item is printed on a red paper heart and the nursing students then choose which hearts they want to provide. They bring the gifts in during the last week of classes and the nursing program takes the gifts to the school to be distributed to the parents to give the gifts to their children for Christmas.
Mitchell said the students really enjoy helping the children in Rio’s community.
“This really shows the compassion our nursing students have because all hearts are taken quickly. We want our students to be active in the community and this is a great way for them to be involved,” Mitchell said. “The nursing students always drop off the gifts proudly and with a smile on their faces. I go into the classrooms and read the items on the heart. Sometimes I see tears in the students’ eyes. They are more than happy to help meet the children’s needs.”
Mitchell said the guidance counselor and parents are overwhelmed with the generosity of the nursing students.
“On Christmas, it’s always fun to think about these children and know they are getting gifts they want or needed. It’s a good feeling to know we had a little part in that,” Mitchell said.
The program started when she learned from a guidance counselor that parents and the school were having trouble getting Christmas gifts for some children. Mitchell said she asked the nursing students if they would be interested in helping. She said she believes nursing is about the compassion these students have shown and Open Your Heart to a Child truly is a “win-win” program for everyone involved.