Christmas gifts sought after low turnout at Springfield toy drive

Bad weather meant fewer than expected at Highway Hikers toy run and Springfield Salvation Army is looking for help.

The Salvation Army of Clark County is asking the community for help after one of its biggest holiday fundraisers was dampened by weather.

About 2,500 motorcyclists were expected at the 39th annual Highway Hikers Toy Drive on Sunday, Oct. 15. But the rainy weather kept many riders away. About 1,000 participated in this year’s toy run, said Ryan Ray, resource development manager for the Salvation Army.

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“We had about half the bikes they were expecting, which means half the number of toys,” Ray said.

This year more than 2,000 kids have been signed up to receive Christmas gifts, he said, and at this time, there’s not enough donations to fill that need.

“We are just making a plea to the community and hoping the community rallies behind their Salvation Army in an effort that no child wakes up Christmas morning to an empty Christmas tree,” Ray said. “Each child gets two brand new gifts, along with clothing items, stuffed animals and stocking stuffers.”

The need has increased this year because Toys for Tots isn’t operating in Clark County any longer.

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“This increases the volume that we see and puts a little bit more weight on our shoulders,” Ray said. “We could not do this without the community’s support.”

The toy drive tries to get toys close to each child’s wish list. The Salvation Army provides gifts up to the age of 17. That’s an age group that is often missed, Ray said.

“It’s easier to go buy a Barbie, an action figure or a Nerf gun. All those things are great but for the teens, it’s always a little bit more challenging to buy for,” Ray said.

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The age group often is looking for lotion or body spray sets.

Walmart on Tuttle Road has teamed up with the Salvation Army to help meet the demand. The store is donating $1,500 in toys, manager Zachary Lones said. The store also has set up 20 barrels for customers to fill up with toys. Once those are filled up, Walmart will donate another $1,500 in toys, he said.

When Lones learned about the lack of gifts at the toy drive, he offered to help.

“We are really behind helping our community out,” Lones said. “We want to do whatever we can to make a dent in Springfield. What I mean by that is, we want to do one transaction, one toy, one customer at a time and make a small difference.”

The upcoming Springfield Antique Show also is assisting, offering free admission to its Nov. 18 and 19 event to anyone who donates a toy for the drive, manager Janie Murphy said.

The Salvation Army is also raising money in other ways for the holiday season. Red kettles have gone out, Ray said.

“This kettle money goes for utility assistance, food assistance, rent assistance, our at-risk youth programming,” he said. “It sustains us throughout the winter months into the spring as well.”

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