‘One light at a time’ — bringing Santa to Santa Rosa from east Idaho

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IDAHO FALLS — With wildfires moving through various parts of California and more than 1,000 homes destroyed, many will be without homes and Christmas this year.

With that in mind, several groups of Brigham Young University-Idaho students are working to make Christmas a reality for those affected by the wildfires.

Earlier this year, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints approached several choral groups at BYU-Idaho and asked them to participate in the church’s annual #LightTheWorld Christmas initiative. Specifically, the church wanted the choir groups to hold concerts themed around lighting the world.

Throughout the Fall semester, the choirs participated in multiple service activities in east Idaho communities. At the beginning of the semester, they had planned to do a toy drive to those in need.

Then the Santa Rosa fires started, and the students realized they could refocuses their efforts on a specific tragedy.

Cody Chandler, a Pocatello native and sophomore at BYU-Idaho, was instrumental in turning the toy driver into an event called “Santa in Santa Rosa.”

“What’s cool about this is it’s a student sponsored toy drive,” Chandler said. “It’s university supported, but it’s student led, student run, student worked and student involved.”

There are boxes set up Broulim’s grocery stores throughout southeast Idaho from Driggs to Montpelier; as well as a box at the Albertsons in Rexburg. Community members have until Friday to donate a gift before Chandler and his father drive down to California to deliver the gifts.

They are asking specifically for unwrapped, new toys. Unlike other natural disasters like a hurricane or tornado, resources are still available to the disaster relief teams, so, the “Santa in Santa Rosa” is asking specifically for toys.

“Something that can just bring a smile to their face Christmas morning,” Chandler said. “That’s the goal, that they can unwrap a gift and feel the joy of having something again.”

The goal is to get three toys to each child. According to disaster relief teams, there are more than 2,300 children without in the area. That leaves a goal of about 7,000 toys to be delivered in the area.

Although there is not a number of how many gifts have been donated so far, Chandler says he’s grateful to those who have helped out.

“It may not be anything much to [the community] to drop a $5 toy into a box,” Chandler said. “But to these little kids who are receiving them, it might just be a glimmer of hope from heaven that things are going to be OK.”

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