BRISTOLVILLE - It is the season for giving, even between rivals.
For the second straight year, the Warren Family Mission has been the benefactor of the Christmas spirit of those at Bristol and Southington High Schools.
Both Beta Clubs got together last year and sponsored Rivals for a Cause, making T-shirts and collecting toys and monetary donations for the Mission.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
ABOVE:?Camryn Perris, 8, of Bristol, far right, donates money to Bristol Beta Club member Levi Paldino, 15, center, for the “Rivals for a Cause”?toy drive for the Warren Family Mission as Rita Harper, 15, left, a Bristol Beta Club, member watches before the beginning of the Southington vs. Bristol basketball game on Dec. 15. BELOW:?Southington senior Susanne Silvernail, 17, also collects toys for the Warren Family Mission.
"To show that it's more than a game between two rivals," Southington Beta Club President Jane Gibson said. "We're helping our community by collecting all these toys, money and all that we have, knowing they'll have a nice Christmas."
The event, which was held at Chalker High School last year, raised $2,300.
"Last year, one of our cheerleading advisors, Danielle Waggoner, approached me with the idea of doing the idea of Rivals for a Cause," Southington Beta Club Advisor Jennifer Mitchell said. "She heard of it from another school that had done it and it was a really good idea. (Bristol Beta Club Advisor) Vonnie (Peterson) and I talked and thought it was a good idea. We got together and brainstormed and decided to do it at the Bristol-Southington boys basketball game."
Both basketball coaches applaud the efforts.
"It's a great thing to see, especially after what happened with the Connecticut situation," Bristol coach Craig Giesy said. "We can come in as two communities, put that much into the Mission and good things in this world."
"For their Beta Clubs to come together and do this is outstanding," Southington coach Mike Karr said. "I just wish we would've had a better showing for the people that came to see the game."
However, the showing both Beta clubs put together this year exceed last year's total. This year, the Rivals for a Cause raised $3,041.51.
Michelle Beauchene, Director of Development of the Warren Family Mission, said this donation is a huge boost.
"People don't realize the challenges the Mission has in doing everything we do," she said. "Everything is solely based on donations. We just don't work with the homeless and food. We have GED programs, drug and alcohol addiction programs. Every program we do is completely free to our clients. It takes a lot to do what we do. A $3,000 check is so amazing. It's going to help us so much, especially at this time of the year. This is a busy, busy time of the year. We have a toy outreach program. We do a community meal on the 22nd. For this past Thanksgiving, we fed over 2,200 people. We have quite an undertaking. You wouldn't believe how much this is going to help us.
"We cooked over 100 turkeys for our Thanksgiving meal. We're doing hams this year."
Even the youngest among us want to get into the giving spirit.
"We have a teacher here," Peterson said. "She has four kids and two of them are 3 and 4 year olds. She took them shopping. They knew they were shopping for other people. They came in here to give them to me and they were just so happy - little toddlers and they wanted to give to other people.
"I can't say enough about it."
Peterson said the two clubs collected at least 350 toys.
"Even our kindergarten class had 25 toys today," she said. "They all got into it. I teach fifth grade and they kids were bringing in toys every day."
The Chalker and Bristol students brought the donations down the Mission.
"A lot of times when they come in, I don't think they know what to expect," Beauchene said. "You see them wanting to help, wanting to get involved, interacting with the people that come into our mission, talking to them, bonding with them, sharing with them. You can see their hearts pouring into people."
It changes their frame of mind as well.
"It made you put in perspective how good we have it," Bristol Beta Club President Samantha Hickey said. "If we have the opportunity to help someone else, then go for it."
Helping the Mission is good for the soul, Beauchene said.
"They start asking me, 'When can we do this again and make this a regular thing?'" she said. "We're being blessed by them coming to volunteer and, at the same time, they're being blessed by what they are doing."
It's no surprise the Beta Clubs are lending a helping hand and spreading the Christmas spirit.
"I try to impress upon them because our motto is 'Let us lead by serving others,'" Mitchell said. "I try to give them different opportunities to see how they can help others. To really see the massive amount of need our county has, really
opened their eyes. They know now, when they say we really want to help the mission, they know they want to help the mission."