Toy Troopers Christmas toy drive begins today

By Lana Clifton

From 5 p.m., Friday, Dec. 11, through 5 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 13, the Toy Troopers will be accepting toys at the Wal-Mart on I-30 in Bryant during their annual Holiday Toy Drive. The toys will later be distributed to children throughout Saline County who qualify through the Churches Joint Council on Human Needs (CJOHN).

According to Jeremy Lemons, Director of Bryant Parks and Recreation, there will be someone available throughout all 72 hours to receive toys.[more]

“We have been known to collect toys at 2 a.m. and as early as 6 a.m.,” said Lemons.

This is the 10th year for Toy Troopers. After a few years at Mills Park, the event was moved to Wal-Mart where it has taken place ever since. In its earliest years, Toy Troopers donated toys to the Toys-for-Tots program. In 2004, however, they joined with the Kiwanis of Saline County and began to distribute the toys locally.

“It has been a wonderful relationship,” commented Lemons. “Toy Troopers weekend is just a part of what makes the Kiwanis program so special for so many families.”

This year a committee of representatives from area businesses and city departments was formed to organize the Toy Trooper Holiday Toy Drive weekend event.

Games, food, movies and other activities are promised by the committee for those who come to the toy drive. Local restaurants, Kiwanis and private donors will provide food for the event, and Bryant Parks and Recreation will show Christmas movies on an outdoor projection screen at night and will provide and run four large inflatable bounce houses during the day. Bryant Fire Department trucks will be on display during the day, and Santa will arrive Sunday afternoon.

A silent auction for a PS3 gaming system, donated by Everett Pontiac Buick GMC, will be held as well. All donated toys and money will remain in Saline County. Donated money will be used to purchase additional toys.

“We have a collection jar, and at the end of the drive we do one large shopping spree,” said Lemons. “We try to enlist as many volunteers as possible to help get toys from Wal-Mart to the collection trailer.”

According to Lemons, they plan to collect and purchase enough toys over the weekend to fill a semi truck. “We have been very close in the past, and it gets bigger and bigger every year. So, this might be the year to fill it from front to back,” he stated.

Lemons said the Toy Troopers request new unwrapped toys for donations. He also mentioned some items were especially needed this year.

“From my experience, the teenagers are normally left out,” explained Lemons. “Bicycles and electronics are normally the most needed.”

The Toy Troopers event is only a part of the Kiwanis Club of Saline County Toy Drive. Toys may also be dropped off at all Summit Banks of Saline County, Brett Polk Shelter Insurance, Yoakum, Lovell and Co., in Benton, and the Alcoa Branch of First Security Bank.

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