A less-worried-than-she-was-on-Saturday Wanda Thacker Martin answered the phone Thursday.
Saturday the gap between the number of children on this year’s Toys for Kids list and the amount of toys and money available seemed huge – larger than it had ever been before.
By Thursday afternoon, the gap had narrowed considerably.
“We have hope,” Martin said. “Just like every year, this community has come through. The last two or three days, it’s really picked up.”
In fact an earlier concern there weren’t enough baby and toddler gifts has been addressed.
“We’re in better shape with the little children’s toys than we’ve ever been. Now? We could use more volleyballs, footballs, we’re really short gifts for the older boys,” Martin said. “We have some needs, but I’ve started to relax. Once again our kids will have toys for Christmas.”
With the shopping day set for Saturday, Martin said it’s close but not too late at all to make donations. Even Saturday, she said, it’s OK to drop off toy gifts at the headquarters, 2325 Belle Plain. And cash or checks can be delivered as well.
“We can always use money,” said Karen Baker, who’s volunteered with the Toys for Kids effort since its founding and whose family has been friends with the extended Thacker family for two generations. “No matter how ready we think we are, the shopping day we’ll realize we’re running short on something and have to go to the store and stock. Money donations make it so we can go buy more as needed.”
Toys for Kids was officially founded by Martin and her late husband, Dennis Thacker, in 2002 to fulfill a wish they had that every child in Brown County have toys for Christmas. At the time, Thacker was in remission from the cancer that took his life in February 2006, and the philanthropic effort of collecting toys for children whose families’ circumstances would have prevented them from getting gifts otherwise was a life celebration for the family. After Thacker’s death, the family, including daughters Stacee Hetzel, Carrie Martinez and Krisse Prince, vowed the drive would continue. It has, with a completely volunteer staff and with all of the money and gifts collected going 100 percent for children in Brown County.
The effort has grown from a seasonal drive to help a couple of hundred families to this year’s list of 667 families and almost 1,600 children. In 2007, Martin purchased a building and garage at the Belle Plain site so toys could be collected throughout the year and there would be a permanent site for registrations and storage and “store” where parents could “shop” for their children’s gifts just a few days before Christmas.
“I never doubted that this community would come through,” Martin said. “We know it’s been a tough year for a lot of families, but it makes us so happy to see the generosity of so many people. We always say, ‘We cannot change the world, but if we can give hope during the holidays to families here in our community, we have given a true gift of love.”