Dover boy donates birthday gifts to Toys for Tots

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Evan Easton, a second-grader at Allen Frear Elementary School in Camden, asked all his friends to donate gifts to Toys for Tots instead of giving him presents for his 8-year-old birthday party earlier this month. (Delaware State News/Ashton Brown)

DOVER – The soon-to-be 8-year-old Evan Easton is spreading goodwill this season by donating to the less fortunate.

Instead of gifts for himself, Evan asked his guests to bring unwrapped toys to donate to Toys for Tots during a party Dec. 6 at the Dover YMCA on the same day Flying Dragons Taekwon-Do Academy in Smyrna, owned by Jimmy Hewes, was sponsoring a Toys for Tots drive.

“I just kind of thought of it,” he said. “I want to be a good person and help others, I just had to decide who I wanted to help.”

About 18 of Evan’s classmates from the Gold Team at Allen Frear Elementary in Camden came to the party at the

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Evan Easton, along with parents Nichole and Rob, stand next to their Christmas tree in their Dover home.

YMCA and brought gifts such as remote control cars and dolls.

“One of the first ideas he thought of was to donate toys to kids in the hospital, but the logistics of doing that turned out to be too difficult,” said Evan’s mother, Nichole.

But then Evan, who turns 8 years old on New Year’s Eve, saw the Toys for Tots donation box at the YMCA in the days leading to the party and decided to donate his toys to kids his age.

Evan, a student in Frear’s Chinese language immersion program, has learned to give back through his parents who volunteer and participate in the Samaritan Tree at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Dover every year and his school, which has a program called Frear Gives Back.

Frear Gives Back is a community service club that promotes volunteer service with a selfless spirit.

“He hears from us and his teachers at school that it’s important to give back because not everyone is as fortunate and it’s just a concept that’s really stuck to him,” Ms. Easton said.

“This is something I could probably do every year,” Evan said. “So next year I can help some different people like the homeless.”

Evan’s donation to Toys for Tots contributed to filling the needs of over 1,120 families in Kent County who will receive donations from the U.S. Marine Corps-led organization.

Toys for Tots was founded in California in 1947 by a member of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves. He and his wife donated one new Raggedy Ann doll and one refurbished toy to children in need in their area and the idea quickly caught on in the Reserves and Reserve Leagues across the nation.

The Kent County Marine Corps League, like all other Toys for Tots chapters, is totally volunteer driven.

“I guess it’s just a Marine thing,” said Dennis Sipple, coordinator of Kent County Toys for Tots. “We get an assignment and just follow through as a group and we and our wives donate countless hours to get it done.”

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Evan Easton, of Dover, stands with the Delaware State News mascot Newshound, aka Toni Hewes, after donating all of the toys given to him at his birthday party, seen on the cart, to Toys for Tots during a recent drive at the Dover YMCA, sponsored by Flying Dragons Taekwon-Do in Smyrna. (Submitted photo)

Plenty of volunteers without Marine connections also volunteer though, like high school community service groups and church organizations.

Parents or guardians can sign up online for their children from newborns to 14-year-olds to be recipients.

“They have to select their location, the age and gender of each child and there is a comment section for the parents to add anything specific their child might have on their wish list,” Mr. Sipple said. “We can’t accommodate everyone’s exact wants, but we do try our best.”

Before bagging all the toys, they’re separated by age and gender and the volunteers go through and sort each order. But as in past years, the Kent County League had trouble fulfilling orders for ages 2 and under and 8 and over.

This year, the Marine League had to spend almost $20,000 of donated funds to go out and shop for the age groups that didn’t have enough toys –– a less-efficient method than relying on donated toys alone.

Once the bags are filled, they’re lined up according to number (each family is assigned one before pickup day). And once the families start rolling in, several volunteers are stationed in each row to grab the proper bag and pass it to the front.

Although donation boxes have been removed and most families picked up their bags Saturday, it’s never too early to start donating for next year.

“We usually don’t start getting donations until after Thanksgiving and end up being in a time crunch so it’s always nice to have a head start,” Mr. Sipple said.

Donation boxes will go up again next October but monetary donations can be made year-round online at toysfortots.org. Make sure to select your location so the donation is given to your nearest chapter and kept in the community.

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Ralph Willis, left, of Milford and Dennis Sipple of Marydel, members of the Marine Corps League, go through toy donations on Friday. Their organization is giving children from more than 1,120 families in Kent County a Christmas they wouldn’t otherwise have through Toys for Tots. (Delaware State News/Ashton Brown)

 

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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