About $4,400 in Christmas gifts — nearly double the amount from last year — were provided to a local family in need as part of a medical student-led initiative at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine.

Family in need receives $4,400 in Christmas gifts via OUWB student-led initiative
A collection of images from OUWB's 2020 Adopt-A-Family efforts.
(Left) One of two cars full of presents collected by OUWB students for a Pontiac family in need. (Right) Krickett Kazyak, M2, was one of those behind OUWB's 2020 Adopt-A-Family effort.

About $4,400 in Christmas gifts — nearly double the amount from last year — were provided to a local family in need as part of a medical student-led initiative at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine.

The Internal Medicine Pediatrics (Med-Peds) student interest group led the effort to participate in the Volunteers of America Adopt-A-Family program.

OUWB medical students collected an estimated $4,389 in gifts and monetary donations to purchase gifts for five children who are living with their grandmother in Pontiac.

Krickett Kazyak, M2, president of Med-Peds, said wrapping and delivering such a large amount of gifts was a big job, but that it was all worth it when she saw the excitement and pure joy on the faces of the children.

“When we dropped the presents off in the driveway, we saw the kids run out and they were just so excited,” said Kazyak. “The grandma has texted me a bunch of times saying ‘Thank you, thank you…we feel so blessed and loved.’ It’s been incredible.”

Sandra LaBlance, Ph.D., associate dean for Student Affairs, said the effort demonstrates how OUWB students “remain steadfast in their commitment to care for others in the community and to reach out beyond themselves.”

“This year, as in years past, I see our students' hearts open to those around them by providing comfort, care, and a bit of joy to a family in need,” said LaBlance

“Providing for others during such a difficult and challenging time shows the kindness and compassion our students bring to the world,” she added.

“I am grateful for them; grateful to our students who care and have so much love for others.”

An OUWB tradition

Med-Peds has annually participated in the VOA Adopt-A-Family campaign for at least five years.

As a student interest group, Med-Peds aims to expose students to the option of a dual residency in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics while serving as a resource for those who have already expressed interest in the field and seek further guidance.

The Med-Peds Adopt-A-Family process begins in early autumn when the interest group’s executive board evaluates about 100 applications provided by VOA from families seeking assistance. Applications are narrowed down to a select few before the Med-Peds board selects the family to adopt. Per VOA guidelines, one family is adopted.

An image of the family adopted by OUWB students in 2020

The family adopted by OUWB students for 2020 took time to pose for a picture after receiving two carloads of gifts.

Kazyak said the family chosen this year submitted an application that “really tugged at the heartstrings.”

In short, she said, the parents of five young boys are struggling, As a result, the boys’ grandmother — who has her own health issues — is the primary caretaker of the boys.

“I had the honor of reaching out to the grandmother to inform her that her family had been chosen and she was nearly in tears,” she said.

“People are excited when you tell them they’re being adopted, let alone being adopted by a whole school that just wants to shower them with as much love as possible.”

‘Blown out of the water’

Typically, the members of an adopted family create a Christmas wish list of needs/necessities and wants.

Then, a Christmas tree is set up in the OUWB student lounge in O’Dowd Hall whereby anyone who wants to participate takes a tag with an item from the wish list. Gifts are placed under the tree and a big wrapping party is held prior to distribution.

This year, the family made a wish list, but COVID-19 prohibited setting up the tree and the wrapping party.

As a result, the entire campaign was conducted online through the use of social media and email. Gifts were dropped off using strict social distancing guidelines. Financial donations were used to purchase gifts. Of the donations, 100 percent went to family.

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The gift-wrapping party was limited to Kazyak and her roommate, Anna Bruins, M2, along with Nicole Lewis, M2, vice president of Med-Peds, and her roommate, Erika Burkett, M2. It took two cars that were fully packed to deliver all of the gifts.

“Our goals were just blown out of the water,” said Kazyak.

Kazyak said the entire OUWB community stepped up, from her fellow medical students, faculty, and staff to Beaumont physicians.

Fourth-year medical student Joshua Hohlbein donated a drone, a remote-controlled helicopter, and an Amazon Fire tablet for three of the boys. His parents also donated a remote-controlled airplane for one of the boys and a radio for the grandmother.

“I was really moved by the family’s story and how the grandmother was doing everything she could to take care of her grandsons,” he said. “Additionally, this year has been particularly tough for a lot of families in our community, so I'm happy to be able to help provide just a little bit of joy this holiday season.”

Hohlbein said it was a “fantastic feeling” to know how excited everyone was to receive the gifts.

“I just hope that all of the aerial toys survive their maiden flights!” he said

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, marketing writer, OUWB, at adietderich@oakland.edu

To request an interview, visit the OUWB Communications & Marketing webpage.

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