The toys piled high during the annual Two-Stepping for Toys event on Wednesday in Brownwood, as radio stations KOXE and Wendlee Broadcasting collected thousands of toys and dollars to benefit Brown County Toys for Kids.
Starting at 9 a.m., volunteers from businesses and nonprofits across Brown County gathered on street corners in downtown Brownwood to solicit donations for the Christmas giveaway. When the stations packed up their toys at 5 p.m., Wendlee reported raising over $7,900 and KOXE came in at $5,535.
KOXE employees and volunteers collected toys just outside the station’s offices on Carnegie Street in Brownwood. At the end of the day the lion statue outside the building was draped in toys and surrounded by boxes and bicycles.
Audrey Smith volunteers with Toys for Kids each year, and spent all day with KOXE. She said the donations started pouring in as soon as the drive began in the morning. “It didn’t even start out slow,” Smith said. “As soon as we opened up at 9, there were people here.”
She said many businesses and individuals had unloaded entire truck beds full of toys. “I’m really proud of our community and how they came out,” she said. “All the people who came out to volunteer and stand out in the cold with a stocking and collect donations—that’s really amazing to me.”
For Smith, who helps her aunt and Toys for Kids founder Wanda Martin each year, the next few days will be the most chaotic of the Christmas season. “This is the craziest time,” she said. “We’ll have all these toys taken to our warehouse, and then [tonight] we’ll sort through them and kind of place them where they need to go.”
She said Friday night, especially, would be hectic as Toys for Kids prepares for the toy distribution on Saturday. “Friday night is what we always call our ‘all-nighter,’” she said.
Amber Taylor helped at KOXE from 4 to 5 p.m. with the Family Services Center, where she volunteers on the parent advisory committee. “The thing with the Family Services Center, we’re all about giving back to the community,” Taylor said. “So we try to get actively involved as much as possible.”
She said programs like Toys for Kids had a direct impact on Family Services clients. “When you get to see what families struggle with, when parents are working but still barely able to make ends meet, you want to get out there and help.”
Blocks away, Wendlee Broadcasting collected donations on Main Street. Wendlee renamed its event Brian Wade’s Toys for Kids drive this year after KYXL morning host Brian Wade passed away unexpectedly last month.
Wade founded the event 11 years ago while working for KOXE, and took the tradition with him when he moved to KYXL. Wade’s morning cohost Leland Acker said his broadcast partner would have been thrilled by the results of this year’s drive.
“If Brian were here right now, he would be ecstatic,” Acker said. “I remember when we would tally up the donation totals in years past, he would be excited to see how many we got.
“Seeing this stack right here—which is as tall as he is, and three times as long as years past—he would be on cloud nine right now,” Acker said.
Acker expressed his thanks for every organization and individual that donated and volunteered for the event. “If you look at this toy drive and what’s been accomplished here, this is the community. We just facilitate,” he said. “We just get the blessing of being able to see the benefit of everybody’s generosity.”
Toys for Kids will distribute its toys to preregistered Brown County families this Saturday.