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NIU Class and Professor Collect Gifts for Teens in Foster Care

Tis' the season for toys, but one group of kids in the foster care system often doesn’t get any at all. Now NIU students are getting creative to fix the problem.

ROCKFORD- After weeks of hard work, Northern Illinois University Student Katie Reporto packed up holiday gifts for teens in foster care.

It’s an age group that Lutheran Child and Family Services reported falls short every year when they collect toys.

"It’s very easy to buy the younger kids a toy. Anybody can buy a toy for a zero to ten year-old child," said LCFS Therapist Christine Spuhler.

The issue got NIU communication professor David Henningsen thinking. He offered students credit for a project to see who could collect the most gifts for 12 to 17 year olds working as a team. The idea was to study group communication.

"I think when people think about a toy drive they think about the young kids. The excitement of Christmas morning and the little kids who race down and think Santa’s come. But if you think about the foster care system there's a lot of older kids in the system" said Professor Henningsen.

The class collected 765 gifts this year. Bags of stuff like fragrance, posters and books will arrive under the tree.

"It’s something that I’m definitely going to keep doing in the future because it was so cool knowing how many toys we raised. In the end it was very rewarding," said Reporto.

Spuhler hopes other professors follow suit.

"It would be a great idea to incorporate that into some university projects that they have to do anyways, school coursework, and benefit the people or the young children in foster care or other organizations," explained Spuhler.

Professor Henningson believes students will take more from the assignment than just a grade.

"I always say to them ‘regardless of what your grade is, at the end of the day if you feel good about what you've done then its been a good class for you,'" concluded Professor Henningson.

To make a gift donation this holiday season visit http://www.lcfs.org/ for more information.

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