“It just warms my heart to see children who will do something like this,” says Toys for Tots director
These cousins spent four weekends raising money for the local chapter of Toys for Tots. Pictured are Brooke Huffman, Johnathan Koonce, Lexie Wright, Bryce Wright and Braden Huffman with Toys for Tots Director Richard Wilson.
Most children think about what they can get at Christmas. But five Pickens children have thought, instead, about what they can give.
“I just wanted to help out other kids and Toys for Tots,” said elementary student Brooke Huffman, who originally thought of raising money for the Jasper-based Toys for Tots program before getting her brother and cousins to help out.
Grandmother Renee Pettitt said her grandchildren started collecting donations after Brooke came home one day and asked where the balloons were.
“It’s like those balloons you make animals out of,” she said. “Before I knew it she was outside with her brother at the end of my sidewalk selling them to cars that passed by to raise money for Toys for Tots, which I have helped with in the past.”
That first weekend it was just Brooke and her brother exchanging balloons for donations, but for the next three weekends their cousins joined in and, all totaled, managed to collect over $100 that they delivered to the Toys for Tots center off North Main Street in Jasper.
“I was at a pageant when I heard they were doing it,” said Brook’s cousin Lexie Wright. “When we got home we went straight out to help. This makes me feel like I’m doing something good.”
The five children eventually expanded beyond balloons as gifts for people who made donations, and went on to hand out paper snowflakes, ornaments, gingerbread men, and Toys for Tots key chains and pencils.
“We have always tried to instill good values in our children,” Pettitt said, whose son and son-in-law are both recipients of purple hearts for their service in the armed forces. “When you have to send your child off to war you have to find somewhere else to pull from because it’s a different world. We have never had a lot as a family, but I try to teach them that it’s by the grace of God that we have what we have.”
Toys for Tots Director Richard Wilson, who presented each of the five children with certificates for their efforts last Saturday, Dec. 15, said the kids warmed his heart with their selflessness this holiday season.
“I was just blown away,” he said. “We so appreciate what these children have done for the program.”
The mission of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is to collect new, unwrapped toys during October, November and December each year, and distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to less fortunate children in the local community.