Do you ever feel like something is guiding you, whether you like it or not and before you know it you’re doing something you really had no intention of doing. I know I’m making complete sense to my Girlfriends, but to others reading this blog, let me explain. It all started when I was eight years old. My parents were pretty active in organizations and my father was usually president of something or other. That year in 1971, my dad was president of the Jaycees. It was Christmas 1971 that I witnessed something so incredibly bizarre that it changed my life forever. In fact, more than four decades later, I can still hear the yelling and the joy that was wrapped around the faces of kids my age as my father and mother handed them bags of toys, most were used, not even new, and food – a giant turkey! Some of the toys were mine that I no longer cared about and now, this girl about my age was expressing so much joy I wanted my toys back.
No, just kidding.
How could anyone care so much about used toys? Last week I found out that the Toys for Tots wse running short on toys this year – 400,000 short here in Georgia. I don’t know exactly why, but after hearing that I called my friend Robert Marshall who owns the Smashburger restaurants in Georgia and asked if he would choose a night to designate proceeds to Toys for Tots. He agreed immediately. Smashburger is adjacent to the mall. I thought about all the people who would be leaving the mall hungry and if they only knew about the fundraiser at Smashburger we could raise more money. Macy’s stepped up and gave Toys for Tots a spot right in front of their store, on the busiest weekend of the year. I will buy all of my items from Macy’s from now on!
Then I spoke with my friend Denise Dillon, a reporter for the Fox affiliate in Atlanta. She put me in touch with Tanya Mendoza at Good Day on Fox who was working directly with Toys for Tots. Tanya put me in touch with Cherrie Carney, the media relations manager for Toys for Tots Atlanta. Cherrie was enthusiastic, excited and more. She helped to promote our Toys for Tots event. The biggest hero was Stephanie Carter with Mystical Parties who I called about possibly participating. Stephanie’s amazing princesses and superheros drew crowds and donations. For two days, I sat with volunteers and watched the children interact with the crowds. Tony Harris, the CEO of Shofur ,the country’s top online booking website for charter buses, encouraged shoppers to “fill the bus” via social media. And, my new best friend Carrie Robinson came up to the mall with her some and friends to put her own son to work to get donations. At the end of the 48 hours, we had collected more than $2500 in gifts and donations.
Cherrie was kind enough to drop by the mall to pick up the toys but in a weird turn of events, her car battery flashed just as she was looking for a spot to park and it died right there. She was eventually picked up by a toy truck driver that has five grandchildren who had very little. Cherrie contacted the local coordinator to get his grandchildren on the list. Coincidence?!
Thousands of lives were touched this past weekend by the generosity of people and in the end, what if it was all a magical plan to make sure five young children would have a Christmas beyond what they could imagine.
The true meaning of Christmas is this: it is a time when Magic appears and children are reminded that dreams do come true thanks to the generosity of others and a visit from St. Nick.