Families arrived yesterday at the Batavia YMCA around noon to kick things off at the annual Toys for Kids Christmas event. The children played together in the gym while parents snuck away to receive some secret extra gifts. Up on the third floor, a room was filled with large, black garbage bags discretely holding toys for Christmas morning.
Pictured above are five children with Don Carroll and Santa Claus. From left to right, Luvena Wagner, age 3, Giovanni Smart, 5, Bianca Jackson, 9, and Blayke Jackson. In front is Lillian Smart, age 3.
Luvena's mother, Christina Wagner, especially appreciates the event in these tough financial times.
"One of my friends was telling me about it," she said. "Her mom was helping with it and she knows that I don't have a job right now. She knew I didn't have much money, so they invited me."
Saturday's shopping spree played out just as event coordinator, Don Carroll, had planned. This year, Carroll raised money and purchased over $7,000 worth of gifts for 120 lucky children. When I asked him what makes this charity event so successful, he gave credit to the fact that it is something he puts effort into all year long.
"What separates what I do from a lot of other places is that they wait until it's time for the holidays," he said. "That's probably why they don't raise as much money. I'm going to be collecting donations again in a couple weeks and it's going to be all the way until this time next year."
Volunteer Lori Wendt says clear organization is also key to event's success.
"A few weeks ago, parents were asked to submit a list of items their kids wanted for Christmas," Wendt said. "That way, Don and the other volunteers would know what to get them. It was so organized.
"We all got our lists with a couple families, and my husband and I went around picking up the gifts. It was fun, and it was fun to know that kids would get what they want."
After playing in the gym, all of the children came up to the room on the third floor where they were served a lunch of pizza, soda pop and holiday cookies.
Good old Saint Nick made an appearance at 1 o'clock when he made his way around the room to have a word with each and every child. The kids were excited to see him and couldn't wait for their moment to talk with him.
After having a turn speaking with each of the children, it was time for Santa Claus to hand out some gifts. (But first, he helped this little girl with her boot laces.)
Each child received one gift at the event. Four lucky kids received iPods as a special gift from the Sheriff's Department.
Look for donation jars and other events throughout the year that sponsor the Toys for Kids charity to support the cause next year.