WAXAHACHIE — Rachel’s Challenge is a longstanding and nationwide anti-bullying program formed after the tragedies of the Columbine High School shootings on April 20, 1999. With a desire to continue the anti-bullying sentiment on the home front, Waxahachie Independent School District created the “Friends of Rachel Club," which is again hosting its annual Christmas toy drive.

Waxahachie Ninth Grade Academy Visual Arts I and II teacher, Rae Whitehead sponsors the ten-year-old club and said she is excited to help again guide the drive that will take place at seven campuses in the district through Thursday, Dec. 15.

“I have been with the club since it started. We have about 15-20 students involved this school year, and this will be the fifth year we have done [the toy drive],” Whitehead said.

Rachel's Challenge and Friends of Rachel Club were inspired by the unforgettable 1999 Columbine High School shooting which two students who were previously bullied and acted out on those emotions carried out. According to RachelsChallenge.org, the first student slain was Rachel Joy Scott, the inspiration behind Rachel’s Challenge, who once said, "I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go.”

According to the WISD Friends of Rachel website, “This unique club provides the opportunity for WHS to partner with Rachel’s Challenge to continue the chain reaction of kindness and compassion in our school and community. The main goal of the club is to help create a permanent cultural change in our school.”

WISD campuses including WNGA, Shackelford, Felty, Northside, Wedgeworth Elementary Schools, along with Howard and Finley Junior Highs, will be collecting toys.

“Originally we wanted to do something with the Santa Helpers Toy Drive in Dallas, but when we figured out that our community needed the toys as well, then we switched gears. We work with the Waxahachie Fire Department now so that the toys stay in our community and go to kids that need them,” Whitehead stated.

After collecting the toys from each location, Whitehead and club members will host a public drive on Friday, Dec. 16 from 2- 5:30 p.m.

“When school releases early that day, the Friends of Rachel Club and I will sit out in the high school parking lot and give everyone one more opportunity to drop off a toy if they did not get to go by one of the schools,” Whitehead said.

The Friends of Rachel’s Club asks that gifts be new and unwrapped.

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Kelsey Poynor, @KPoynor_WDL

(469) 517-1454