TeamNEGU Blog

Virtual JoyDrive: a How-To

COVID-19 is forcing everyone to problem solve and think outside the box in unique ways. Our team worked together with the staff at Melinda Heights Elementary School to create a new way to hold a JoyDrive. JoyDrives are ways that community groups, schools, and companies can come together to collect toys for JoyJars. Melinda Heights Elementary School holds an annual JoyDrive every year and has done so for the last eight years now. Grant Frum, Community Engagement Manager, was excited to try something new with them as “there isn’t a school like Melinda Heights that goes all out for their JoyDrive.” He’s watched how “the JoyDrive, just like JoyJars for kids fighting cancer, brings students hope in a time that seems hopeless.”

When COVID-19 hit, students everywhere faced losses of all kinds. Graduations, end of the year activities, field trips, dances, and in-person classes all canceled. Kim Yarrington didn’t want that for her students though; “This is a much-anticipated tradition and highlight every year at Melinda Heights. Instead of being one more thing that we’d have to let go of this year due to COVID, we were able to make it happen!! Being able to continue with the drive brought so much JOY to our students and staff.”  

Mrs. Yarrington felt having something to focus on and work towards as a school community would give their students an opportunity to think outside the box too, looking beyond “their circumstances and into the lives of kids fighting cancer…(creating) a meaningful way that they can demonstrate empathy and compassion and take action in a very tangible way.” Together we were able to collect toys at a critical time for the foundation when donations have slowed and events have been canceled, but JOY is needed more than ever. The toys will go directly into JoyJars, which will be shipped across the country to encourage kids as soon as this month!

We learned a lot through this process and want to share our learnings with you so other groups can join in even during this pandemic and the months of adjusting to our “new normal” follow. Our process looked like this:

  1. Instead of an assembly of students, we created a JoyDrive video that was sent out to all teachers for them to share with their students and their parents. Shaya, Jessie’s big sister, talked about her love of Melinda Heights, what her sister started, why we NEGU, and how the students could help.  
  2. All of the teachers were emailed a link for our Virtual JoyDrive registry where they could go online and shop for toys just like Jessie did when she was fighting cancer! We asked that the toys be shipped to their own homes so we could attempt to replicate the fun-filled drop-off the school normally has.
  3. We hosted a JoyDrive Drive-Thru for all the students to drive to the JoyFactory in Irvine, drop toys off without leaving their cars, and feel encouraged by their teachers and all of us at TeamNEGU. 

We all knew this test drive would be filled with various learning opportunities, and we are so grateful to Melinda Heights Elementary School for being there to try it out with us! One of Mrs. Yarrington’s big goals for continuing this virtually was that her students “hearts expand, and they learn that serving others brings joy to everyone involved.” Together we were able to do that. We know that virtually, you cannot truly replicate the same excitement, passion, and joy the Melinda Heights students show every year through their daily morning drop-off parties. As Grant reflected on the day, he said, “the smiles and the joy on their faces were priceless and I believe they felt valued and loved.” Because we continued, more hearts were able to hear Jessie’s story this year, learn the impact behind kids helping kids, and learn to NEGU too!

We cannot wait to try this with someone else and continue to share Jessie’s story and NEGU message with new groups of people. Grant loves creating new solutions to work with different groups, and you can contact him at to team up with us so we can encourage kids fighting cancer together!