"Unbelievable … unbelievable!"
That’s how Wendlee Broadcasting owner Rex Tackett described the annual toy collection Wednesday that Wendlee Broadcasting and KOXE/KBWD Radio sponsored, which in turns benefits the Toys for Kids charity.
Community members donated about $16,500 in cash and checks and a large number of bicycles and toys at two locations, which were delivered by truck and trailer at the end of the day to the Grand Starz Bingo Hall for distribution Saturday to families.
At KOXE/KBWD’s collection site outside its office on Carnegie, a little more than 1,900 toys and bicycles were collected in addition to $8,300 in cash, program manager Carl Wayne said.
Tackett didn’t have a count for the toys and bicycles that were collected at Wendlee’s collection site at the Bank of America parking lot. Donations by cash and check at that site amounted to just over $8,200, Tackett said.
“It was a great turnout,” Tackett said. “It just gets better every year. We had over 50 yards of toys that were several layers deep running out on the sidewalk. Everybody across the community steps out on this each year. It continues to grow.”
Tackett said he enjoyed seeing Brownwood Lions athletes at the Grand Starz helping unload the toys after they were delivered there.
Wayne described the event as “an incredible day for our 13th annual two-step thing for toys at the studios of KOXE. On behalf of the Brown County Toys for Kids, we would like to thank everyone who participated this year by volunteering or donating, collecting, whatever the case may be.
“The generosity of the community never ceases to amaze me. Lots of kids in Brown County will have a very special Christmas that might not be otherwise because of your compassion and generosity.”
Stacee Hetzel, who teaches business courses at Brownwood High School and directs the Lionettes dance and drill team, is the daughter of Toys for Kids co-founder Wanda Martin. Hetzel the community’s response to Toys for Kids is a blessing.
“In 1997 when my parents came up with this idea, I had no idea it would lead to where we are today,” Hetzel said. "A lot of planning and preparing goes into this but for sure it would not be successful without this amazing community and our loving volunteers year after year.
"(Wednesday) reminds me that there are great, giving people in our small town. I get emotional talking about this because it is so dear to my heart. I love our memories that we make and I have friends that have helped year after year as well.”
Participating in the toy drive has become part of some families’ holiday tradition, just as it has been for the Hetzel family, she said.
“When I asked my own daughters, Alex and CarolAnn about this, they reply so easily — it's just a natural part of their holidays,” Hetzel said.
“Neither of them know Christmas without this program. Alex was 2 months old when we started it and both of them include their friends each year. which makes this mom so proud. My mom, Wanda Martin, and my sisters — Krissi Prince and Carrie Walters — impress me every year with the blood, sweat and tears that they pour into this. We know our dad is smiling from heaven.”
Toys for Kids gives parents an opportunity to provide presents under the tree for their children who might otherwise go without on Christmas Day.
Martin said earlier that cash and toy donations are welcome until the distribution day, but cash donations allow volunteers to be more versatile when it comes to bulk shopping for area kids.
For more information regarding Toys for Kids, contact KOXE/KBWD at (325) 646-3505, Wendlee Broadcasting at (325) 646-3535 or visit their Facebook pages. For those looking to make a direct donation to Toys For Kids, who also has a Facebook page, call (325) 646-6822.