Christmas is going to be a “happy holiday” for many metro-east children thanks to the O’Fallon-Shiloh Emergency Medical Services, according to local Toys For Tots coordinator Ray Adams, who picked up the truckload of over 630 toys Friday, Dec. 9.
“I’ve been down about 10 percent this year in collections, and this gracious donation has made up for it,” Adams said. “This is an absolute blessing.”
Looking forward to seeing all of the happy faces who will receive toys for their family’s children, Adams said he hopes O’Fallon-Shiloh EMS makes this the first of many years of participation to come.
O’Fallon EMS Supervisor Jeremy Sherman said each gift is valued at no less than about $10, and some were more costly for older age group gifts.
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Sherman said they started collecting toys for one child last year for one of their own whose daughter had been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, but decided to continue collecting this year for others on a larger scale, and that’s when they partnered with the United States Marine Corps Reserve, which runs the Toys For Tots program.
“We raised just about $900 in cash donations, too, and we rolled those into Target gift cards valued at $1,000, so we were able to really get some nice gifts, and that’s not including all of the gifts we did collect, too,” Sherman said with an ear-to-ear smile.
Adams said, “If it wasn’t for this donation from O’Fallon-Shiloh EMS, I wasn’t going to be able to service all the families who have applied, but now I’m going to be able to help almost every kid.”
Adams covers some Madison County areas, but the majority is every St. Clair County municipalities, except for East St. Louis, Washington Park, Centerville and Alorton, all of which have its own coordinator, south of Interstate 270.
His service area alone covers about 575 families averaging about three children per family and 15 organizations averaging a need of about 125 kids each, Adams said.
“It’s a lot, and it’s been hard for me the past two years in my battle against cancer. Last year, I was bedridden, but sat in a wheelchair to help — at least help with what they let me. I died three times during the two surgeries I’ve had since August, but God willing, I think the Lord brought me back with a purpose to keep helping children have a better Christmas with this work with Toys For Tots,” Adams said.
According to Adams, it breaks his heart to hear of children not having a good or happy Christmas, and that is exactly why he has remained steadfast in his efforts with Toys For Tots seven years and running, in sickness and in health.
“I’m going to keep doing it until I can’t. I try my darnedest to not turn anyone away either — I don’t care if they’re blue, green, pink, orange or whatever, kids deserve happiness on Christmas,” Adams said. “I want people to know that when they donate to Toys For Tots, their donations all go to local kids — not to St. Louis, Mo., not to Chicago, Ill., nowhere but local towns including O’Fallon and Shiloh.”