Perhaps nothing warms the heart more during the Christmas season than the smile of a child, making this year’s Li’l Raiders Christmas Party another opportunity to set hearts ablaze.
MTSU Public Safety, MTSU Campus Recreation, the OWLs (Older, Wiser Learners), June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students and Golden Key Honor Society and MT Lambda student organizations jointly sponsored Santa’s Li’l Raiders Christmas campaign to benefit children in need.
Three Christmas trees across campus were decorated with Li’l Raider ornaments that listed a child in need, gender, clothing size and wish list. Revived last year, the effort targets MTSU students with children as well as parents being served by the Domestic Violence Program.
About 30 ornaments were available this year, all of which were adopted by various Secret Santas around campus. A Christmas Party was held Friday, Dec. 13, at the MTSU Public Safety Office on Main Street, including food, fellowship and an appearance by Santa himself (aka dispatcher Cody Travis) to hand out gifts.
“We had a great turnout, lots of fun and the families truly appreciated the support of the MTSU community,” said Sgt. Vergena Forbes, community policing specialist with MTSU Public Safety and a coordinator of the effort. “We truly appreciate the terrific response from the campus to spread holiday cheer to those in need.”
As she watched the excited children eagerly await Santa’s arrival that evening, Deborah Johnson, executive director of the local Domestic Violence Shelter, noted that the university’s police department “has been a real collaborator with us.”
When the local domestic violence program started 27 years ago, other established shelters told local organizers that law enforcement partnerships would be hard to develop, Johnson Said.
“We decided that in Rutherford County that was not going to be the case, and we established relationships with law enforcement right off the top,” she said. “We’re there for each other.”
Several campus police officers, including Chief Buddy Peaster, attended Friday’s party, giving them a chance to interact with the children and their parents in a more relaxed environment.
“It establishes relationships, like the little girl talking to the officer,” said Johnson, pointing to one of the Li’l Raider attendees. “Maybe an officer came to the house and arrested Daddy, but here they can see that these aren’t bad people.”
For more information about the Li’l Raiders program, please contact Sgts. Vergena Forbes or David Smith at 615-898-2424.
— Jimmy Hart (firstname.lastname@example.org)