Songs of the Season, Orange Santa to Bring Holiday Festivities to The University of Texas at Austin, Friday, Dec. 5

Songs of the Season, a holiday sing-along at The University of Texas at Austin at noon Friday, Dec. 5, will bring students, faculty and staff together on the West Mall steps of the Main Building to celebrate the holiday season and the generosity of people who have contributed toward the university's Orange Santa gift program.

Songs of the Season features combined choral organizations from the Butler School of Music and the Tower Singers, a staff organization. Orange Santa will also make an appearance at the event.

The annual program concludes the Orange Santa donation drive for 2008. In final preparation for the Holiday Store, Orange Santa and many helpers will be present to accept donations and fill a replica of the university Tower with toys.

Orange Santa began in 1994 as a program to foster a more caring university environment by providing help for members of the university community who have special needs during the holiday season. In December 2007 Orange Santa served 485 families, including 1,750 children.

Orange Santa provides a resource for university employees and students with special needs but it also is an opportunity for the larger university community to contribute to those needs and participate in a season of caring.

During the 2007 Orange Santa program more than 500 people donated their time as volunteers. In addition, numerous members of organizations sponsored donation drives. University Police collected donations and purchased new bicycles and helmets. The Dana Center raised funds through an auction. The Inter-Fraternity Council delivered two truckloads of toys from its toy drive competition. The Office of the Dean of Students decorated gift bags for the program.

The program's Orange Santa Holiday Store provides an opportunity for participating families to "shop" for gifts and toys for children in their immediate family. The store is stocked with items contributed through a university-wide donation drive as well as items collected at special events.

New, unwrapped toys or gifts in original packaging and wrapping supplies will be collected at university guard stations on the main campus and at the Pickle Research Campus through Friday, Dec. 5. Gifts also are being collected at numerous locations throughout the university and some off-campus sites.

The donated gifts will be distributed to employee and student families from the university community with special needs during the holiday season. Participants who shop at the Holiday Store complete an application process coordinated by Human Resource Services and in cooperation with the Austin Christmas Bureau.

Orange Santa is sponsored by the Office of the President but it is a collaborative program involving many university units and friends. The University Co-op, the University Federal Credit Union and the University of Texas Club provide financial support for Orange Santa.

More information about the Orange Santa program is available online.