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Play time

Posted 10:09 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021

Lisa Klein, UWL Community Engagement Coordinator, loads toys collected for Afghan children at Fort McCoy. The two-week, campus-wide effort netted around 400 toys.

Campus toy drive for Afghan children a success

Children of Afghan refugees at Fort McCoy will have new toys to play with thanks to a UW-La Crosse toy drive.

The campus-wide effort over a two-week period involved students, staff, faculty and community members. Around 400 toys were collected, ranging from simple games like Checkers, Jenga and Connect Four to simple puzzles, as well as Play Doh, Kinetic Sand and Cornhole. 

“Providing our new Afghan neighbors a warm Wisconsin welcome is important as these families begin their lives in a new country,” says Lisa Klein, UWL Community Engagement Coordinator. “The faculty, staff and students at UWL recognized this and were quick to ask how they could help those who have been displaced from their homes — their country — with little more than the clothes on their backs. This toy drive is just one small way for us to say welcome."

The idea for the toy drive started with UWL Professor of Mathematics and Statistics Susan Kelly. She worked with Klein in the university’s Community Engagement Office to organize the campus-wide event. Volunteers for the drive came from a group of more than 20 faculty and staff who wanted to help once they saw Afghan refugees arriving at Fort McCoy.

All the toys were donated to Catholic Charities of La Crosse, which is accepting all donations for the Afghans who arrived at Fort McCoy as part of Operation Allies Welcome. Many of the items donated were requested as toys of interest by the Fort McCoy Women and Children Center coordinator.

Those still interested in donating toys and other items needed at Fort McCoy may use the Amazon Wishlist at The list is set up by Team Rubicon, a national organization that serves vulnerable populations affected by disaster.

Along with collecting toys, numerous UWL faculty and staff have been working with higher education partners at Viterbo University and Western Technical College to educate the community on the Afghan people. A second education event scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 19, is titled "Getting to know our new Afghan neighbors: A live stream event."  The live stream can be found at: There will be a viewing of the of the live event in the Community Room at Western Technology College in Tomah with limited seating. Masks are required. Get more information at Viterbo’s website:

From left: Peg Maher, Lisa Klein, Sarah Mosley and Susan Kelly pose with toys collected on campus. They were among the UWL faculty and staff who led efforts on campus to collect toys for children Afghan refugees at Fort McCoy.


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