Wish Upon a StarAndres Corona, left, Hadiyah Owens, and Dwight Alston encourage students to get into the holiday spirit. (Sacramento State/Jessica Vernone)

“When a star is born/They possess a gift or two./One of them is this:/They have the power to make a wish come true.” – Jiminy Cricket

“When You Wish Upon a Star” from Disney’s Pinocchio is a whimsical tune. But Sacramento State students, faculty, and staff have the ability to make wishes on stars actually come true for some deserving recipients.

The University’s annual Wish Upon a Star project is underway with a beautiful display in the University Union. About 200 stars hang on the display, each bearing a different name along with that person’s wish for a holiday gift.

The beneficiaries are part of Sacramento’s Sunburst Projects (sunburstprojects.org), which serves children and families living with HIV/AIDS. Members of the campus community need only select a star, obtain the gift, and make someone’s wish come true. The recipient could be a child or teen with HIV/AIDS or a parent of one of those children.

Norma Sanchez, the University Union’s assistant director of operations, has been spearheading the annual effort for seven years. “We’ve been really successful,” she says. “It’s wonderful to see so many students and the community come together to help one another.”

Gifts can range from the practical, such as pajamas or socks, to the delightful, such as Thomas the Tank Engine and other toys. One girl has simply asked for a picture frame.

One popular item is diapers. Sanchez notes that they’re a basic item, but a big expense for a family with a small income.

All gifts need to be dropped off at the Union Administration office on the third floor, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, by Dec. 9. “That’s when we haul all the gifts out for our wrapping party,” Sanchez says.

That festive gathering will take place on the Union’s second floor in the art exhibit lounge. “We’ll rope that off and have tons of wrapping supplies,” Sanchez says. “We’ll also have holiday music and some treats such as cookies and hot chocolate.”

Sunburst Projects will then treat its clients to a holiday party the following week, at which time they will receive their gifts. “For a lot of these families, that is it, that’s their holiday event,” Sanchez says. “And these are the only gifts they’re going to receive.”

Sanchez emphasizes that Wish Upon a Star is a group effort. Her department’s 12-member student management team pitches in to shop for wrapping supplies, put up the display, and lead the gift-wrapping effort. And she welcomes anyone else who’d like to participate. “We’re always looking for volunteers.”

And while the effort might be a lot of work, Sanchez always finds it worthwhile. “One of the things I love most about doing this is seeing the joy when people turn in their gifts.”

For more information about the project, visit Sunburst Projects’ website at sunburstprojects.org. – Craig Koscho