December 18, 2002
Radio station toy drive ends with party, big smiles for 81 children
By Lisa Uzzle Gates
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—It was hard to tell it was four-year old Ethan’s first bicycle as he expertly pedaled across the gym floor of the Sunnybrook Children’s Home Tuesday night.
Though it was bright as Rudolph’s nose, the Huffy was almost lost in a sea of torn wrapping paper and excited children trying out many other toys as the Ridgeland children’s home celebrated Christmas a little early, thanks to a drive that netted toys for 81 kids.
Cindy Boatner of Benton first heard about the toy drive on a local radio station.
“I was at my desk one day, typing, and had the radio on. They were talking about the needs of the kids at Sunnybrook and said the list was on their Web site. So I went to the site,” said Boatner, a secretary in the neuropsychology department at Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson.
Boatner was already familiar with Sunnybrook because she planned to participate in a program that would allow her to bring one of the children into her home for Christmas day. She didn’t realize how long the background checks and other security measures would take, so she wasn’t able to do that this year. When those plans fell through, she decided the toy drive would be a way to adopt all of them.
“I looked at that list and just cried. It broke my heart—some of these kids are asking for coats, pajamas or comforters for their beds for Christmas. Those are things most kids would just expect, but these are the gifts they want,“ Boatner said.
She knew she could at least buy presents for some of the kids and, she figured, she could get a few of her colleagues to do the same. It wasn’t long before she found herself at the head of a toy drive at Methodist Rehab that took on a life of its own. That was more than 50 presents and 25 employees and patients ago, and the numbers continue to grow.
“Cindy has been just a jewel. I really commend her for all of her work. I’m looking through these lists (of needs) and I’m seeing Methodist Rehab everywhere,” said Rachel Welborn, a house parent and grant writer for Sunnybrook. Welborn said Methodist is one 10 businesses and about 50 individuals who made the toy drive a success. The Ridgeland non-profit is the home to about 70 children, ranging in age from newborn to 17 years old, most of whom have been removed from their families by the Department of Human Services.
Slightly more than half of the children are young, elementary age and less, and are in foster homes. The remaining 30 children are 11 years old and up and live in cottages at the Ridgeland location. The state provides some funds for the children’s basic needs, but Welborn said it’s not much and money is always tight.
In the past they have relied primarily on individuals to help with Christmas, but last year Clear Channel Broadcasting, which owns four radio stations in Jackson, took up their cause.
Scott Johnson, program manager, said the radio stations were looking for a cause to adopt at Christmas and someone suggested the children’s home.
The station sponsors the drive for the kids, talking about it on air and recruiting listeners to pitch in. The station employees also do their part.
Johnson said they look forward to the culmination of the toy drive, a big Christmas party with all the children opening their presents. “I tell all my managers they need to go, because when you see those kids with those presents, you realize there is more to life than work,” Johnson said.
For more information:
Toy drive success for Sunnybrook kids | The Clarion-Ledger