Timberjacks toy drive benefits Medora elementary students

MEDORA — The Basketball League encourages its teams to do community events.

Last year, Leah Young, director of basketball operations for the Medora Timberjacks, decided the team could organize a Christmastime toy drive. Anyone in the small Jackson County community and beyond could donate toys, which would go to Medora STEM Academy students.

The result was every student receiving one toy, and those who donated were given a ticket to a Timberjacks game the following spring.

The toy drive recently was conducted for the second year in a row, and again, Young saw a great response that allowed all 101 elementary students to receive a gift.

“It went so well last year. We got enough toys last year and got it covered, so I wanted to do it again this year, and the kids really loved it,” she said.

On Dec. 16, one of the semiprofessional basketball team’s players, Malik Cook-Stroupe, accompanied two Medora High School students, junior Aaralyn Hackney and sophomore Dawson Cornett, in visiting classrooms to distribute the gifts. Hackney and Cornett both work for the Timberjacks during the season, running concessions and the shot clock, respectively.

“Last year, I wasn’t up here to pass out presents or anything, so it was neat being up here to do that,” Cook-Stroupe said. “The smiles, they were really grateful for it. It makes it worth it.”

He had a unique perspective because not only does he play for the Timberjacks, but he also is an assistant coach with the MHS boys basketball team and is working at the school.

He said it was great to see people donate toys and money for the project.

“I think that’s a pretty cool process that so many people from all over would come in and do that for them,” Cook-Stroupe said.

Hackney and Cornett helped organize the toy drive, wrapped the gifts and assisted with distribution.

Cornett said a good amount of donations came in during the boys basketball team’s preseason scrimmage.

People also dropped off donations at State Bank of Medora.

“I got some cash, too, that I was able to buy things,” Young said. “We got enough toys for all kids, so the extra cash I got, I bought for other families in need here at school.”

Since the number of students at the school increased by about 50 this year, Young said more toys were needed.

Fortunately, people came through to support the effort.

“A bunch of toys got brought in, so it just helped everybody, and every kid got a toy,” Cornett said.

“I’m so glad and so happy that we at least know everybody got one present for Christmas, and they were pretty good gifts,” Young said. “I had like a $10 minimum, but some people definitely did more than $10. I tried to make it as fair as possible.”

Distributing the gifts was fun for Cornett and Hackney, too. First, they and Cook-Stroupe stopped by a classroom with the lower grades. Then they went down the hallway to a classroom with the three upper grades.

“It made the kids happy. A lot of them, you’d go in and just put a smile on their face,” Cornett said. “It put a smile on your face, and it made your heart get all warm and stuff. They were coming up to everybody and hugging. They were so happy.”

Hackney could tell the kids liked what they received and appreciated it.

“Their faces were all happy,” she said.

Young was glad to see another successful toy drive and said it’s a good project for the Timberjacks.

“They bring so much to not just Medora but all of Jackson County, so I hope everybody sees that and comes back and supports the Timberjacks,” she said.

Their season starts March 5, and the first home game at MHS is March 10. See the full schedule online at facebook.com/medoratimberjacks.

Young plans to lead the toy drive again next year.

“Oh yeah, for sure,” she said. “We’ve had a great response to it, for sure. It will be probably every year that we do it. It’ll be like our annual thing we do.”

The same day the gifts were handed out to elementary students, Medora Junior-Senior High School Principal Kara Hunt was drawing names of her students to win gift cards after someone donated $500.

Again, it was a matter of someone in the community stepping up to support kids, making their Christmas brighter.