A memorable Christmas looks a lot more likely for more than 5,000 area children after Tri-Citians started responding to the local Toys for Tots desperate need for toys.
The nonprofit has received at least 1,400 toys and $1,100 over the weekend, after the Herald printed a Saturday article on the need for donations.
On Friday, the local Toys for Tots toy drive looked bleak. Bill Stott, coordinator of operations for Toys for Tots by Marine Corps League 337 of Benton and Franklin counties, called it the worst year ever for donations and said few toys and no money had been donated.
That changed after the weekend. Stott said Monday the local Toys for Tots was up to about 11,000 toys.
"I'm just absolutely elated with all the toys people have donated," Stott said.
He's hoping the donations will continue and bring the local nonprofit closer to its goal of providing a good Christmas to more than 5,000 kids.
"I'm still shy 2,000 or 3,000 toys," he said.
Toys for Tots has about 4,700 children signed up to receive toys on its main distribution day, Saturday, starting at 10 a.m., at the Benton County Fairgrounds. The group finished signing up families for the Christmas aid on Sunday.
That's not including other children the local Toys for Tots helps, including those in foster care, children whose parents are migrant farm workers and special needs children.
The group provides toys for children ages 10 and under. Each child is given a stuffed animal, a nice gift and two less expensive toys. Stott estimated the average cost is $70 to $80 per child.
At McCurley Integrity Chevrolet in the Pasco Autoplex, donations were slim until last week, when Craig Cavanaugh, general manager of McCurley Integrity Dealerships, said he started calling vendors and customers.
It's the first year McCurley Integrity Dealerships has been the host for a local Toys for Tots drop-site. Cavanaugh said McCurley decided to do so in response to Chevrolet's decision to support the toy drive nationwide.
Now, more than $4,000 has been raised there to buy toys and a Chevrolet Silverado in the showroom is overflowing with more than 500 toys, he said. Those toys are expected to be picked up Thursday.
The local Toys for Tots is awaiting other donations, including one expected Thursday from employees at the Hanford vitrification plant, a Bechtel National project.
Last year those employees donated 2,000 toys and $6,000 to Toys for Tots for Yakima and Tri-City area families. This year, the donation is expected to be larger, said Suzanne Heaston, Bechtel National spokeswoman.
The main distribution day is Saturday, starting at 10 a.m., at the Benton County Fairgrounds in Kennewick. But toys will be delivered up to Dec. 20 to others, including children in foster care and children of migrant workers.
Toys for Tots will accept donations at drop off sites throughout the Tri-Cities through Dec. 20.
A list of the drop-off locations is available on the Benton and Franklin counties Toys for Tots website, pasco-wa.toysfortots.org. Money also can be donated through the website.
w Herald staff writer Annette Cary contributed to this report.
w Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; firstname.lastname@example.org