Hundreds of people stopped in at The Thirsty Beaver in Cranston, as well as the one in Smithfield, on Dec. 4. to donate toys during the 4th Annual Toys for Tots toy drive benefiting Toys for Tots and The Rhode Island Dream Center.
Last year they collected 3,000 toys, however this year exceeded the expectations of hosts Ed Brady, co-owner of The Thirsty Beaver in Cranston on Atwood Avenue and Jacob Belt, co-founder of New Life Financial Alliance, as they collected 5,000 toys.
Also serving as co-hosts were Justin Erickson, Mike Ricci, Marco Scotti and The United States Marines.
“We collected toys [for ages] ranging from infants to early teenagers,” said Brady. “The toys get picked up by the Marines and they go through holiday lists of families in need throughout Rhode Island at their location in Providence to find each toy a good home. The Rhode Island Dream Center at Praise Tabernacle Church also adopted 10 families here in Cranston and a lot of toys will also go to those families.”
Serving on the host committee were: Burns Roofing, Rhode Island Residential, GMedia, Just Dance Academy, Anytime Realty, Homepoint Financial, G Lopes Construction, Allstate Lock, Greico Automotive, Reflections by National Gold, Maplewood Landscaping, Project Broken Wheel, Veterans Inc, The Cranston West Alumni Association, Swipe for a Cause, The Smithfield Ice Hockey Team and Coaches, Councilman Paplauskas, Councilman Farina, Representative Lancia, Councilwoman Suzy Alba and Mayor Allan Fung.
“It's awesome and all for the kids of course,” said Belt, who has been collecting for Toys for Tots for the past twenty years. “I couldn't ask for a better partner than Ed. I'm hoping he and I do this as long as I’m on this Earth.”
From bikes to board games to soccer balls and dolls, the pile kept growing, and several beauty queens volunteered to help keep it as organized as possible.
Miss Rhode Island USA Daescia Demoranville and Miss Teen Rhode Island USA Aliyah Moore, along with Mrs. U.S. Italia Nicole Martins and little Miss U.S. Italia Elena Capaldi, age 7.
“I enjoy working with my network of friends throughout the community because I know so many amazing people that always step up for the community to make a difference - together we can do so much, and it feels great to be a part of it,” said Brady. “I feel very blessed to live in Cranston, Rhode Island; a city full of kindness.”
Both Thirsty Beaver locations were full during the Toys for Tots Event. Customers were enjoying donating and dining as well as participating in silent auction items up for sale as well as sports blaring on every television.
“It was truly remarkable to see a community come together to make a difference in so many children’s lives,” said Brady. “The people kept coming and the toy pile kept getting bigger. I honestly was blown away by the generosity of so many people.”