JAMESTOWN – Having gifts to open on Christmas morning is synonymous with the holiday for many kids across the world, and in Chautauqua County, a group dedicated to helping families keep that tradition alive is getting ready for the holiday season.
Chautauqua County’s ‘Toys for Tots’ campaign is now well underway after the group held one of their first fundraisers of the season over the weekend.
As coordinator Patrick Smeraldo explains, this is just the beginning for his group in their mission to make a memorial Christmas for area kids, with his group helping to put on this year’s Holiday Parade.
“To be able to do a community event like the parade and have the people of not only Jamestown, but Chautauqua County show out for us, it’s beyond heartwarming,” said Smeraldo.
During the parade weekend, several opportunities to collect “Toys for Tots” will take place, with the main collection happening during the parade itself on Saturday, December 4 at 6 p.m.
At last year’s holiday event, he collected 15 barrels of toys.
“It’s the opening of the holiday season,” stated Smeraldo. “I enjoy the holidays, a ten-year-old, when haven’t they been looking forward to this. You have to do these things, I mean they’re children.”
In addition to the 75 “Toys for Tots” donation boxes spread around the county, a bear toss event happened at the Northwest Arena Friday. Smeraldo says there is always a big push to collect toys for older kids, but plush animals are great for younger children too.
“Stuffed animals are very comforting to kids too,” explained Smeraldo. “So not only is it a toy, but it can be used as a source to deal with trauma or something like that.”
He tells us that this year in particular, it is very important to receive physical donations instead of monetary.
“We’ve been warned by the Marine Corps about shipping issues this year, you know everybody is having trouble with shipping,” said Smeraldo. “And they’re telling us right now: listen, don’t expect anything, November 15th you better have your order in.”