Toys to be distributed through Christmas Wishes program

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More children's eyes will sparkle with excitement Christmas morning thanks to a truck overflowing with new toys at Steamboat Motors.

Legos, footballs, coloring books and baby blankets are just a few of the donated toys gathered through the U.S. Marine Corp Toys for Tots program, which will help make Christmas special for families that otherwise might forgo gifts.

"Everything stays in the community," said Colleen Hilling, who works in accounts payable and receivable at Steamboat Motors. "It helps families around here, and it brings a lot of families together."

Steamboat Motors marketed the program and collected the toys, which will be distributed to Routt County families through the Routt County United Way Christmas Wishes program.

That program began in November, when the United Way asked social service agencies, doctor's offices, schools and churches to identify families that may not be able to celebrate Christmas with gifts.

The United Way sent letters to the more than 150 families, asking them to list their wishes for toys and clothing. Residents, businesses, churches and organizations adopted the families and are working to make those wishes a reality.

Their shopping usually starts at Steamboat Motors, where donors pick out toys fitting their families' requests.

"It's a perfect fit with the Routt County United Way Christmas wishes program," United Way director Millie Beall said about Toys for Tots.

The toy drive started Nov. 17 and officially ended Wednesday, but Beall expects more people to donate toys, and donors will pick up toys today and Friday. After Friday, however, any remaining toys will be bagged for Santa Claus, who will distribute them at the Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors annual community dinner on Christmas Day.

"We've had enough to fill the truck, if not more," Hilling said.

Donated items include stuffed animals, dolls, basketballs, movies and learning toys for very young children, she said.

Some residents have worked the Toys for Tots program into their holiday festivities by requesting that guests bring a new wrapped toy, Beall said.

Toys have been only part of donors' efforts to fulfill families' holiday wishes. Many families participating in the Christmas Wishes program asked for basic items such as shirts, pants, coats and boots for their children.

"It's sad to hear the hard luck stories, but at the same time, it's wonderful to have people who want to participate to help lighten the load," Beall said.

Some donors who don't want to shop or wrap have given the United Way monetary donations, which the organization has used to help families pay for prescriptions, utility bills, a month's rent and firewood, Beall said.

Monetary donations for the Christmas Wishes program or any other Routt County United Way program may be dropped off at the organization's office, 135 Sixth St. in Steamboat Springs.

-- To reach Tamera Manzanares call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com

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