Toy drive brings out generosity

They say good things come in small packages.

The adage holds true for the slew of toys gathered by the students of Sumner/Danbury Elementary School to benefit Toys for Tots this holiday season. From baby dolls to Barbies and from Nerf guns to Hot Wheels cars, they will brighten Christmas for local kids who might otherwise have gone without presents.

It also applies to third grader Axel Garcia Jr., an 8-year-old with a heart for kids who are less fortunate, who came up with the idea for a school-wide toy drive. On hearing his son’s plan, Axel Garcia Sr. stepped in to add the sponsorship and philanthropic heft of the local Kiwanis, of which he is a member.

Soon, toys began to pour in, donated by Sumner/Danbury families, by Kiwanians and by the communities of other local schools like Oakmont and Vista del Valle. The Claremont Police Department also joined the effort, heading to the local Target for a toy spree to the tune of more than $400. By Thursday, the day of Sumner/Danbury’s annual Holiday Sing, an estimated 1,000 toys had been collected, and more were still pouring in. The Salvation Army will distribute the toys to low-income families in the Pomona Valley.

The efforts of Axel—who received a certificate of appreciation from Mayor Larry Schroeder—and the overall success of the toy drive were hailed by district luminaries.

“What an apt word you’re studying this month: generosity. You’ve made generosity come alive,” said  CUSD Superintendent Jim Elsaser, speaking before a crowd of some 200 people, including students, parents, Sumner/Danbury staff and Claremont Police officers.

 “It shows the power of children and what they can do for a community,” added school board member Jeff Stark.

The toys got the star treatment, too. They were collected by representatives of the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, wearing full dress uniform, and transported with pomp and circumstance by NBC weathercaster Fritz Coleman’s double-decker Holiday Lights bus, which was festooned with colored lights, a wreath and holiday-themed inflatables. 

For 11 holiday seasons, Mr. Coleman has toured local neighborhoods, looking for the most festively decorated houses to highlight on the evening news. This year, the bus has taken on the additional role of collecting toy donations. Mr. Coleman was not at the Sumner/Danbury event, which was a touch disappointing for the school community, who had expected that the noted TV personality would be on hand. The bus was there, though, to collect the Christmas bounty and an NBC news crew spurred students to wave each time the TV camera swept past.

Axel Jr. not only showed initiative. He showed remarkable poise as he addressed the crowd, saying, “Thank you everyone for making this a great event. Happy holidays!”

Everyone knew the toy drive would be good for needy families, as every little bit helps. No one, however, could have anticipated how many toys would be collected, according to Sumner Principal Kristin Robinson.

“We had toys coming in every day. They were coming in so fast, we didn’t know where to put them,” she said.

The media attention was also notable, said Gunnery Sergeant Marcus A. Booth, Toys for Tots coordinator for the Bell office of the Marine Corps Reserve.

“Not only is it a larger drive but we’ve got Channel 4 out here. It lets people see that even a young third grader can spark the kindling to get something like this going,” Sergeant. Booth said.

“We [Toy for Tots] are just the middleman,” he continued. “This is the community giving back to itself.”

That kind of giving feels good, said 6th grader Jacob Pohorely.

“I’m glad to help give toys and games to help kids have fun and have something to do so they won’t be bored this holiday season and bored in life—to give them something to do so they won’t be worried about the ordeals in life,” Jacob said. 

After the Toys for Tots ceremony was over and before the students launched into a holiday program ranging from “I’m Getting’ Nuttin For Christmas” to the Polynesian-themed “Mele Kalikimaka,” Sumner/Danbury students launched into their school theme: “We share one heart/Come together and the teamwork.”

“This is my favorite part,” enthused Sumner Office Manager Melissa Smith. “This song is so wonderful.” 

—Sarah Torribio



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