“There are a lot of people who care about a lot of people.”
That’s how Wendlee Broadcasting radio personality James Williams described Wednesday’s spectacle at two drop-off points in Brownwood, where community members piled on the cash and toys to benefit the Toys for Kids charity.
The Toys for Kids distribution day is Saturday.
A total of $16,600 in cash and “too many toys to count” were collected, said Stacee Hetzel, the daughter of Toys for Kids co-founder Wanda Martin. Martin and her late husband, Dennis Thacker, started the charity in 1997.
“(Thursday’s) fundraiser and KOXE and Wendlee Broadcasting were amazing,” Martin said via text message. “The amount of toys we received will increase the amount we are able to give each child, which is so exciting. We are counting the bikes now and hope to go buy more with the cash.
“We want to express our gratitude to KOXE, Wendlee Broadcasting and all the participating businesses for working so hard all November and December — especially for standing outside in the cold all day long for the families needing help during the holidays. It is hard for us to express our full gratitude, but believe me, we all have happy tears in our eyes. I’m sure Saturday there will be lots more tears as we wrap the massive amount of toys for Christmas morning.”
The Blanket Volunteer Fire Department will be outside Big Lots from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday to collect additional donations of toys and cash.
On a day in mid-December each year during the run-up to the Toys for Kids distribution day, Wendlee Broadcasting and KOXE Radio promote the daylong toy and cash drive. Businesses and individuals donate toys, bicycles and cash for delivery to the Toys for Kids headquarters at the Grand Starz on Belle Plain.
Volunteers are on hand to help collect the toys and cash. Wendlee Broadcasting’s site was in the parking lot of the Pierce Gallery Furniture Store, and KOXE Radio’s site was at its usual location outside the station on Carnegie.
“There are two cool things about it,” Wendlee Broadcasting’s Williams said. “One is, every kid that’s signed up is going to get something on his Santa list. It’s going to help a bunch of kids have a great Christmas.
“The second thing is — I don’t know which one’s first — the community that gets behind this deal is pretty impressive. The number of people that come through here and make cash donations — and some folks you can tell that they’re making a donation from their heart, because they don’t have a lot of money to donate — but they want to help a kid have a good Christmas.”
Williams said “everybody works together” and there is no competition.
“It’s just, let’s work together and get this done,” Williams said. “It’s fun.”
Williams recalled a time when he was a member of the Jaycees and dressed up as Santa, to make deliveries to homes.
Seeing the excitement of a child who received a gift, Williams said, made him think “there’s something to this Santa stuff. We’ve got to keep it going. It’s just a lot of fun and it’s good for everybody.”
Audrey Smith, who is Wanda Martin’s niece, said she keeps track of the applications to receive from Toys for Kids and families’ wish lists.
“I grew up doing this since ’97. It’s been my entire life pretty much,” Smith said.