Friday, November 18, 2005
Today was our annual "launch the local toy-drive" photo event.
Shortly after we moved to the Oregon coast, we adopted the local firming toy drive as our chosen charity. I'm a toy nut anyway, and so it wasn't much of a stretch for me to check the toy clearance sections for good deals, and even when money was tight, I could usually scrape together a few extra bucks for a bargain toy.
At first, we couldn't afford much, but careful shopping (I try not to pay more than 25% of retail, and we spend on average about $5 per gift) and improving success in our writing careers changed things.
About four years ago, we discovered that we'd pretty much filled the back of our then-New Beetle, "The Tick." There was far too much for any remote collection point, so we figured out which fire station was being used to store the toys, and headed over.
Chris and I drove "The Tick" down to the fire-station collection point, walked into the lobby, and asked if there was a place we could take toys. The receptionist pointed to a collection box in the corner. We stared at it for a minute, then said, "it isn't big enough."
"Oh," she said, "I'll come and give you a hand." I seem to recall that she picked up a bag or small back, then she followed us out into the parking lot, and discovered we weren't kidding. She went back inside, and it was all-hands-on-deck to unload the Beetle.
The next year, Felix Roldan, the toy drive coordinator, asked if they could use our Beetle-full-of-toys as a photo-op for the media to kick off the year's drive, and thereafter, it's become a tradition.
This summer, of course, "The Tick" met his heroic end protecting my life in a traffic accident. We were wondering for a while if we'd be able to carry on the tradition. But then "Herbie" came into our life, and we now have a car even better suited to delivering toys to the kids.
That first year, the car seemed full, but we've now become experts at packing toys into VW New Beetles, and we've had to put those skills to the test. Last year, I drove, and we still ended up with toys on Chris' lap and on the dash. This year, Chris drove (letting us move the seat further forward) and I rode in the passenger seat with my knees nearly in my chin. Still that, plus the fact that our stuffed-animals were vacuum packed, gave us enough room to get everything in the back. Fortunately it wasn't raining today though, as we couldn't get the hatch closed!
You can't solve all the world's problems, but you can make it a better place by starting small. No child should suffer through the holidays without enough to eat, or without some small material reminder that somebody out there cares. Most areas have toy drives and food programs to help families in need during the holidays.
I encourage you to find one of these programs in your area, and contribute what you can. It doesn't have to be much. Skip that fast-food lunch today and make a cash donation, or buy a toy or some canned-goods for your local food bank. Do it, and do it now. Heck, do it later too. Just do it! Not only are their kids in need in your area, many agencies are also shipping toys to victims of Hurricane Katrina.
A toy can change a child's life. It can give hope and comfort. It can inspire a dream, or launch a career. Remember your favorite toy as a child, and the happiness it gave you? Now it's time to share that feeling.
Here are some links to help you locate a toy-drive local to your area:
Toy Drive Locator
Marine Toys for Tots Foundation