Christmas with a Falcon

This photo from 2020 shows wrapped gifts ready to be sent out to the students via Christmas With A Falcon.

FAIRMONT — All it takes is $100 to give a child a special Christmas experience.

The Fairmont State University Student Government Association is enlisting the community’s help for the second annual Christmas With A Falcon.

By cooperating with Marion County Schools, the SGA hopes to give 200 needy kids around the county a Christmas to remember. Zach Taylor, president of SGA, founded the program last year and is bringing it to the community again this year.

“This [fundraiser] is the most special thing I’ve ever been a part of,” Taylor said. “It is just amazing. We don’t actually get to see the children’s faces, but just the thought of kids getting to wake up Christmas morning with something... it’s a tear-jerker for me.”

The SGA raises $100 per student, $60 of that goes toward buying gifts for the child to give to their family, while the other $40 goes toward gifts for the children themselves.

Taylor said the program aims to teach young children that Christmas is about giving as much as its about receiving.

“Aside from providing [the kids] things, we want to encourage them to give too,” Taylor said. “This is a way to teach the kids from a young age what Christmas is about.”

Last year, the fundraiser had a goal of $15,000 to help 150 students from the county elementary schools. The SGA passed its goal and was able to help more children than planned, as well as save some money for this year.

Now, the organization is bumping its goal up to $20,000 to help 200 students from both elementary and middle schools.

The schools provide a list of students, their interests and sizes. Some schools provide more names to the list than others.

“Different schools have different needs, they have different demographics, and some schools need more help than others.” Taylor said. “We try to take all that into account.”

In many cases, the SGA volunteers don’t have more than the first name of the student they’re buying for, but each gift is wrapped by a caring set of hands.

Marion County School Superintendent Donna Hage has been a major help to the drive according to Taylor. Hage said she is grateful to see so many organizations supporting students in need.

“We are blessed in Marion County to have so many organizations supporting our students, particularly at this time of year,” Hage said. “We collaborate with Fairmont State on so many levels, so it’s a blessing when that relationship extends even further into supporting our elementary and middle schools.”

Hage went on to commend students like Taylor who are organizing the drive, saying they are an example of the kind of role models the students need.

“We are always looking for positive mentors and role models for our students and this collaboration... is college students helping out students,” Hage said. “What an excellent example of community service and giving back to help those who are younger.”

Usually, the gifts go to fulfill personal items, such as toiletries, clothes or other items most everyone uses. But Taylor guarantees that every child his team gives to will receive $100 worth of items.

“We don’t even use the donations to buy the wrapping paper, we provide all of that,” Taylor said. “We use all of the money just on the kids, we don’t even pay taxes with it... we’re tax-exempt.”

This year, with a higher goal and more students to provide for, the SGA is requesting the community’s support more than ever. All donations will be matched 50 percent by the SGA out of its own budget.

While $100 will completely pay for a child’s gifts, Taylor said that no donation is too small and the community’s help is so important to what they do.

“At this point, we’re trying to encourage as many community members to donate as possible,” Taylor said. “We understand folks can only give what they can give, and we appreciate every donation.”

The donation process is easy, but several steps must be followed correctly to make sure the money goes to the correct fund. Visit fsufoundation.org/giving/give online. Under “Designation” select “Falcon Fund-Unrestricted Support.” In the comment box write, “Christmas with a Falcon.”

The last step is crucial so the Foundation knows to send the money to the Christmas With A Falcon.

Checks can also be made payable to Fairmont State University and mailed to the SGA vice president, Merri Incitti, at 1201 Locust Ave., Fairmont, West Virginia 26554.

Reach David Kirk at 304-367-2522 or by email at dkirk@timeswv.com.

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