By MERI R. KENNEDY COVID-19 has changed the world as we know it. One thing it has not changed, though - kids in need still deserve a happy holiday. The For the Kids toy drive began in 1996 as an extension of a client appreciation party hosted by Jacob
COVID-19 has changed the world as we know it. One thing it has not changed, though – kids in need still deserve a happy holiday.
The For the Kids toy drive began in 1996 as an extension of a client appreciation party hosted by Jacob Belt in partnership with the U.S. Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots campaign. By 2000, the drive had drown to the point that it was moved from its usual office setting to function rooms at local restaurants.
That shift left Belt, a partner at Anthony Jacobs Financial LLC, to connect with Ed Brady, part of the ownership group behind the Thirsty Beaver and other establishments.
In 2015, Brady – who is now a member of the Cranston City Council – asked about the possibility of running the drive along with Belt.
In the first year of that partnership, 1,000 toys were collected. Then, in 2017, the event moved to the Thirsty Beaver’s Cranston location and continued to grow. By 2019, the event collected roughly 7,500 toys, and in addition to the Toys for Tots drive, the organizers began working with the Rhode Island Dream Center to distribute the donated toys.
This year, there are multiple ways to support the effort. Drive-thru donation events will be held Dec. 6, and an Amazon wish list has been set up to select toys for donations. Community members can also donate cash, allowing organizers to shop for toys. More information can be found at forthekidstoydrive.com.
“We do this by collecting toys and cash donations through a network of wonderful giving individuals and companies,” Brady said. “We then place the donated toys and cash contributions with organizations that have distribution systems in place to ensure the children of Rhode Island receive the donated toys in time for the holidays. Every service, location, labor and item used to run For the Kids is donated. We are proud to state 100 percent of the cash donations and toys reach the kids.”
The driver’s partners now number in the hundreds, including Don Parsons and Anytime Realty, David Paolo and G Media Studios, Rob Griecoand Grieco Automotive, Dan Ashworth and NES Security, Dan Gruslin and Allstate Lock, Lupe Aguilar and Rhody Foody, Cranston Middle School Athletic Director Justin Erickson, Cranston City Council President Mike Farina, City Councilman Chris Papaulaskas, Mayor Allan Fung, Mayor-elect Ken Hopkins, Zach Levesque and Northpointe Bank PVD, Anthony Barone, Brian Cipolla and Reflections by National Gold, Eric Burns and Burns Roofing, David Dimao and The Cranston West Alumni, the Corsos and Maplewood Landscaping, The Body Rock Team, Cranston City Councilwoman-elect Nicole Renzulli, the Cranston/East Greenwich Co-op Thunderbirds, and many more.
“This year’s event wouldn’t have happened without Tracy Hall of Tracy Hall Designs, who donated her services to create our website, and Joe Russo of J&R Marketing, who donated our new logo,” Belt said.
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