For Tucsonans plotting strategies for shopping the sales on pre-Black Friday, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, local nonprofits are hoping that a toy for a child in need will make the list.
“I think that aside from the spiritual side of Christmas, toys are a magical part of the season with children. It is hard to imagine children not having that magic, and I think it is a great idea to be involved with an organization that creates magic for kids who really aren’t in a position to have it otherwise,” said Lynne Booth, co-vice president of the board of directors for Team Up for Tucson.
The nonprofit stages the annual Stuff the Hummers Toy Drive to benefit the Salvation Army of Tucson. The event has evolved over the past four years to include not only a toy drive but a celebration with a Hot Rod/Classic Car Show featuring more than 80 antique and classic cars, an Ugliest Christmas Sweater Contest, a Best Christmas Hat Contest and a silent auction featuring more than 50 items and gift baskets.
The entry fee for the car show is a donation of three new, unwrapped toys per car or $15 cash; contest participants can join in by donating three new toys or $10 cash.
Festivities culminate with the loading of toys in Hummers for a short parade to the Salvation Army.
Last year, Team Up for Tucson helped collect and donate 11,975 toys; 223 new bikes; and jackets, clothing, shoes and hygiene items for children living below the federal poverty level.
Team Up for Tucson donations are again expected to comprise a significant portion of the 35,000 toys sought by the Salvation Army this year, according to Salvation Army Public Relations Director Shawna Kroh.
“Stuff the Hummers is one of our biggest donors. Together with the Stuff the Bus events at O’Reilly Chevrolet and Watson Chevrolet from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 6, they will bring in the majority of our toys. In addition, we have 50-plus organizations setting up collection boxes and Christmas Angel tags so people can purchase gifts. Hopefully, we will reach our goal,” Kroh said.
Last year the organization received almost 24,000 toys and helped more than 3,250 families and 4,754 children through various programs including the Adopt-a-Family Program, Kroh said.
“Many of these toys go to kids who live on the streets or in shelters or are nearly homeless. They all live below the federal poverty level. Sometimes people say, ‘Well, that family has a car.’ The car might belong to an aunt or uncle or maybe that is actually where they live. You just never know what the background is on a person, and sometimes people are not aware of those situations,” said Michele Ochoa, founder of Team Up for Tucson.
Ochoa, Booth and the more than 40 volunteers who facilitate Stuff the Hummers have found that the event provides everyone involved with a dose of “holiday magic.”
“It is just so much fun and so festive. I like the word ‘magical’ because it takes you away from the grind of everyday living,” Booth said.