Holiday Toy Drives: a how-to
By Kara L.C. Jones

Hosting a Toy Drive can be a wonderful way to remember a loved one, especially a child, who has died. Last summer we offered an article for how to organize a teddy bear drive. We thought we'd adapt that article here and offer ideas for how to do a holiday toy drive in memory of your child.

First, you'll want to call your local firestation, police station, or youth services office to make sure that they will take donations of toys during the holiday season. You'll want to ask if the toys have to be new or will they accept *slightly* used items. Be sure to ask if they want you to giftwrap the donations or bring them unwrapped. And you'll need to know if there is a deadline date by which you must deliver toy donations. In our area, the Youth and Family Services organization takes donations of new toys each holiday season for families in need. Also, local firestation is always very excited to hear that we are collecting bears or toys for them. They never have enough is what they tell us.

Next, go around to local merchants in your area and ask if they might consider being a "drop-off" point for the drive. You'll need to provide them with a box and flyers to advertise the drive. The merchants who helped us with our teddy bear drives were very kind and excited about the drive. They put our "drop-off" boxes right in the front or windows of their stores and hung our signs very prominently. Some even made signs of their own because they were proud to be sponsoring this drive.

If a merchant won't be a "drop-off" point or if the youth services or firestation already has "drop-off" arrangements, then ask if the merchants might just hang a flyer on their door or at their cash register to tell people about your efforts for this drive in memory of your child. With this flyer, encourage others to donate in memory of their loved ones. And let people know how to get these "memorial" donations to you for the toy drive. Or ask people to let you know if they've made a donation at a "drop-off" in memory of someone, so that you can make some sort of notice of the person remembered. All of the merchants in our area were glad to at least do this for us.

Take the flyers and hang them everywhere you can. Contact your local paper and ask if they might run a free listing for you in their Events section. Check out the neighborhood Chamber of Commerce and ask if they might add a listing to their newsletter. Contact local community centers to see if they publish calendars or newsletters and ask to be included there, too.

It's best to provide an end date for your drive, too. You'll need to to end your drive a day or two prior to the deadline date of the holiday drive, so that you have time to pick up all donations and boxes from "drop-off" points and get the donations to youth services or the firestation.

Other things you might consider: Maybe you could ask the local printer to donate the copies of the flyers for the drive. Maybe you could ask the local toy store to do a display of toys in their window along with your flyer and information. Use the Internet and provide a mailing address for people from all over to participate in your toy drive. I have been know to send bears to Texas and the Midwest from here in Seattle for teddy bear drives happening there. We got a huge box of bears from Pennsylvania for one of our drives.

Also, the firemen are often very excited about helping you out if they can. Our firestation offered to bring out the firetrucks one Saturday afternoon to publicize the event. Get them to come out on a main street or parking lot of a local grocery store or school yard. Let your local news stations know about it and maybe they'll come around to film for their evening news "kicker story" and you'll get even more publicity that way.

When you have all the toys ready to go, consider adding Kindness Cards to the toys to say who you are remembering. We added cards to our teddy bears in memory of our son, but we also added cards for others who had donated in memory of their loved ones. Kindness Cards can be a wonderful way to let everyone know that your heart and soul were in this drive!

And when all is said and done, be sure to call the youth services office or firestation to make sure when it's a good time to bring the toys to them. Our local firestation was very kind and grateful for the bears we delivered. They even invited us to dinner to say thank you. Sadly we had scheduling conflicts and couldn't go last time, but next year maybe??? I hear Fireman's Goulash is YUMMY!

Another thing to consider when the drive is over, is to offer some sort of notice of all the loved ones who were remembered in this drive. If you have a website, then make a page listing the names of the loved ones who were remembered. Or make a handmade sign with the names on it, and ask the library to hang it up for a couple of weeks. Or call the local paper and ask if they would be willing to donate some space for listing the names and to highlight how the drive turned out.

Lastly and most of all, have fun with the work of this drive. It can be that "layering of memories" where you are acknowledging the pain and loss, but also layering it with the good vibes of a toy drive. It's hard to ignore how cute and cuddly the donated teddy bears are, how awesome those donated toys are. Take photos of the toys and bears. Let all the merchants who worked with you know how it all turned out, and then be sure to tell them that you'll be doing it again next year, too!

***You can help with our Toy Drive this year:
KotaPress supports the Vashon Island Youth & Family Services Toy Drive

We need you! Did you know that last year's toy drive served more than 120 Vashon Island children? We expect that more families than ever will need our help this year, due to K2, Boeing, and high tech layoffs in recent months. More than ever, we want to give our children of Vashon a happy holiday seaon.

We really need your help. Cash donations, new toys, and stocking stuffer items are needed. If you make your donation in memory of a child or loved one who has died, we at KotaPress will send a free Kindness Cards along with your donation so that Youth & Family Services will know the name of the person we are honoring. Please send donations by December 8, 2001.

If you would like to send a check to support the Toy Drive, please make it payable to Vashon Youth & Family Services, PO Box 237 Vashon WA 98070, and be sure to label it "Toy Drive."

If you would like to send new toys or stocking stuffers by USPS mailing, please send to Vashon Youth & Family Services, PO Box 237 Vashon WA 98070. If you are using UPS or Fed Ex, please send to Vashon Youth & Family Services, 20200 Vashon Hwy SW, Vashon WA 98070.

When you send your donation, drop us an email at KotaPress to and tell us the name of the person you'd like listed on the Kindness Cards. We'll deliver the Kindness Cards to Youth & Family Services on December 14th.

Vashon Youth and Family Services is a 501c3 non-profit, and all donations of toys and cash are tax deductible.


Author Biography
Kara L.C. Jones is a founder of KotaPress and a grieving mother who lost her first born son on March 11, 1999 at 4:47 p.m. She is a poet, writing healer, bookmaker, producer, artist, overworked and underpaid worker bee for KotaPress, and so much more! If you wish to contact her, please send email to

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