Carnegie Mellon University
November 01, 2012

Press Release: Carnegie Mellon’s Engineering Students, University Police Kick Off Eighth Annual Toys for Tots Drive

Event To Feature Famous New York Sun Editorial About Santa Claus and “Yes, Virginia” Family Members Who Keep Her Holiday Tradition Alive

Contact: Chriss Swaney / 412-268-5776 /

PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University first-year engineering students Julia Eddy and Allie Perna and the grandson of the famous Virginia O’Hanlon, who as a child wrote to The New York Sun asking if there really was a Santa Claus, will help kick off the eighth annual Toys for Tots Drive from noon to 1 p.m., Nov. 16 in the Singleton Room of CMU’s Roberts Engineering Hall.

The 2012 kickoff, sponsored by the Carnegie Mellon College of Engineering’s First-Year Advisory Board (FAB) and Carnegie Mellon Police, is designed to encourage the university community and surrounding neighborhoods to donate unwrapped toys to the drive, which ties into the national U.S. Marine Corps program that has been collecting toys for needy children since the early 1950s.

This year, the CMU Toys for Tots event features Jim Temple, the grandson of Virginia O’Hanlon, the inspiration behind one of the most famous lines in U.S. journalism, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”

In 1897, 8-year-old Virginia of Manhattan, bugged by friends who kept telling her there was no such thing as Santa, wrote a letter to The New York Sun. “Papa says, ‘If you see it in the Sun, it’s so.’ Please tell me the truth,” she wrote.

The response, an unsigned editorial published on Sept. 21, 1897, was written by Francis P. Church, a former Civil War correspondent.

For generations since, O’Hanlon’s descendants have quietly become ambassadors of the holiday spirit, crossing the country to appear at events, honoring her and reading the letter and the famous editor’s response.

“I’m pleased to visit CMU and be a part of the Toys for Tots kickoff drive,” said Temple, who has amassed a unique collection of “Yes, Virginia” memorabilia.

In addition to Temple, the event also features an old-fashioned barbershop quartet, the CMU Navy ROTC unit and bagpipers. CMU students also will launch a “Postcards for Patients” drive that will recognize the efforts of U.S. war veterans.

The College of Engineering’s FAB was designed to help freshmen adjust to the rigors and challenges of college life. In the past, the CMU engineering students’ efforts awarded them a place on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll.