The Charger Blog

Veteran Students Organize Toy Drive for Kids in Need

Members of the University’s VA Work Study team are collecting toys for Toys for Tots, and they hope their fellow Chargers will join them in spreading cheer and smiles to children this holiday season.

October 31, 2023

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Vincent Franco ’25 (left) and Joshua Wyskiewicz ’25 are charged up to support Toys for Tots.
Vincent Franco ’25 (left) and Joshua Wyskiewicz ’25 are charged up to support Toys for Tots.

When Vincent Franco ’25 was in the U.S. Marine Corps, he served on active duty with a scout sniper platoon for four years. Those experiences have stayed with him, as well as the meaningful ways he saw his fellow Marines serving the community – especially their support of the Toys for Tots program.

toys for tots flyer

Run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Toys for Tots distributes toys to kids whose parents and caregivers can’t afford to buy them Christmas gifts. The program inspired Franco to give back – and to bring the opportunity to support the program to his fellow Chargers. He hopes to get them charged up to spread holiday cheer.

“It was a program that was near and dear to my heart,” said Franco, a legal studies major. “I saw Marines take part in the program and give back, and I thought, ‘This is awesome. I could still be somewhat connected but not be in uniform. The ads get me every year, and I thought this was something we should do to give back to our community.”

A member of the University’s VA work study team, Franco and his fellow Chargers – including fellow work study team member Joshua Wyskiewicz ’25 – are now organizing a University-wide toy drive that, they hope, will make the holidays brighter for countless kids.

“They've really hit the ground running, and they are taking the initiative to plan and coordinate events and initiatives in support of our student veterans and military-affiliated students on and off campus,” said Ryan Noonan, ’20, ‘23 M.S., the University's manager of military and veteran affairs. “Between coordinating VA personnel to give info sessions on specific education benefits to taking lead on the Toys for Tots drive and taking ownership of the upcoming Military Appreciation night at the Bridgeport Islanders game on January 6, these two students have made an immediate impact on how we support and engage with our student population.”

‘I hope... I’ll see that box overflowing’

Franco and Wyskiewicz hope their fellow Chargers will bring new and unwrapped toys to the Beckerman Recreation Center from now until December 10. There will be a large white collection box with a “Toys for Tots” label that they hope Chargers will fill with toys for kids of various ages. When the box is full, members of a local U.S. Marine Corps Reserve unit will come to the University in a large military vehicle to collect the toys.

“We’re hoping they can come more than once,” said Wyskiewicz. “I think it is great when veterans can show how they continue to participate in the community. Veterans are in the communities.”

A six-year U.S. Army veteran, Wyskiewicz served on active duty in the military police for five years. He says this toy drive has been a rewarding collaboration between students who are members of the University’s VA work study team.

“Having our own veteran community at the University helping kids is great,” he said. “I’m glad we have the ability to do it.”

In addition to contributing toys, Chargers can also make monetary donations to Toys for Tots. The collection box has a QR code that will enable Chargers to support the program. Franco hopes the University community will join him in helping to put smiles on the faces of children this holiday season.

“I hope that when I’m walking to the gym, I’ll see that box overflowing,” said Franco. “I’ll think how beneficial this will be to those kids.”