Adopt A Family


Alec Koscielniak '22, Writer

Our U of D community has well over 1000 members composed of students, faculty, and staff. However, this number gets even larger every year around Christmas time as part of the Adopt-a-Family program run by the Ignatian Service Corps. Each homeroom “adopts” a local Detroit family to provide them food and gifts for the holidays. These families are connected to the school through nonprofits like Focus: HOPE, 8 Mile Old Timers Club, Tindal Recreation, and The Nativity of Our Lord Parish. Then, members of the homeroom organize a list of food and presents for each member of the family. All food and presents are brought in by December 9th *HINT HINT*. Finally, the students go out into the community as men for others and deliver the gifts to the families directly. This takes place on Saturday, December 11. 

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Ryan Hammet reminding the Cub Community to bring their gifts in

This 2021 season is turning out to be one of the most successful yet! Every day, students are piling into the building with towering stacks of presents and lugging along bags of canned goods. Yet, beyond that, many students don’t know much about Adopt-a-Family. How much prep does it take? Why do we do it? How many people are involved? I spoke with ISC Co-Chair Ryan Hammett ‘22 to answer these questions and more:


How early in the year did you start preparing for Adopt-a-Family 2021?

“Since the start of September, our team has been working diligently to organize, prepare, and coordinate this year’s Adopt-a-Family program. From making phone calls, creating wish lists, and filming the kick-off video, our team has been dedicated to bringing these families the best Christmas possible.”


Besides the homeroom reps, how many guys do you have working to put this all together?

“This year we have taken a different approach to getting students involved. We have organized a team of seven coordinators, who oversee their respective grade level. Along with the homeroom ambassadors, our student leaders have been committed to communicating updates and information with their homeroom classmates. We also organized a video team, who initiated and created an amazing kickoff video to excite the Cub community about the program.”


How much of this is student-led and how much is faculty-led?

“The majority of the Adopt-a-Family program is student-led with the facilitation and help of Mrs. Koster Rigg and the U of D faith and service department. The student leadership team has spearheaded most decisions in regard to the program’s structure, organization, and communication. U of D students have dedicated themselves to spending time before and after school to ensure this year’s program runs smoothly and successfully.”


The homerooms notice that they are always given a sheet with suggestions for presents. How do you initiate contact with these families to find out information like this?

“Last year, I developed a new strategy of incorporating technology to gather and customize each family’s wishlist. Each family is provided a Google Forms survey, which allows them to give us a better idea of what will best fit their needs. After receiving their responses, we made phone calls to each family to interact on a personal level to better understand their family situation, and how we can bring them the best Christmas possible.”

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Did you work with any organizations outside of the school other than the big four?


“In the past, we were connected with families through Focus: HOPE, Tindal Recreation, and The Nativity of Our Lord Parish. However, this year, we were fortunate to be introduced to families from the 8-MIle Old Timers Club to expand our impact on the community.”


Many students really enjoyed the kickoff much more than in previous years. What did you do differently this year?

“For this year’s kickoff, we dedicated more time to creating a fun, entertaining, and meaningful kickoff video to get the community excited. We asked for family photos, so our students could feel more connected to their adopted family. Showcasing the neighboring areas and family photo collages helped to create holiday spirit and a closer connection between our students and families. ”


Are any families recurring families? If so, are the homerooms able to make any other connections with their adopted families outside of the program?

“Every year, we welcome 40-50 new families into our community. We do not adopt any recurring families because we want to extend our support to as many families as possible. Even though our students do not have any other opportunities outside of this program with their families, we strongly encourage students to get involved with our partner organizations. The ISC has become very involved with both Focus: HOPE by packing and delivering food to senior citizens and Tindal Recreation by providing tutoring services to local kids.” 


Are there any other gifts (not directly from the homerooms) that you give to the families?

“Along with the generous donations from the homerooms, the ISC adds to the holiday spirit by giving each family a honey-glazed Dearborn spiral sliced ham and a poinsettia.”


Why, in your opinion, do you think it is important to keep up this service tradition year after year?

“Absolutely, the U of D service tradition is what we stand for. In my opinion, the Adopt-a-Family program is our most impactful service project our community takes part in during the year. We invite all students, families, faculty, and staff into this program to make it a community experience. This year, we are gathering over 1000 gifts to bring Christmas to 49 families, and bringing smiles to 145 children and 85 adults, AMAZING! I am beyond thankful for the U of D community’s dedication and support for this annual tradition. 


Any other comments?

“On behalf of the Cub community, I would like to give a special thank you to Mrs. Koster Rigg for her profound dedication and endless hours of work to make this program possible. I have had the privilege of working with her these past few years, and I have learned and grown in so many ways. This staple of U of D tradition would not be possible without her immense support. Thank you Mrs. Koster Rigg!”