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A Blog by TA & Petro Stopping Centers

Celebrating Our 21st Annual American Red Cross Toy Drive

TA employees and American Red Cross volunteers.

It's all for the kids. As the countdown to the holidays lessens and the excitement builds, families around the world are preparing for the different traditions they celebrate this time of year. For our TA home office family, one of those traditions is our annual Holiday Red Cross Toy Drive, when employees are invited to donate toys for Northeast Ohio families affected by disaster.

This tradition began 21 years ago, with a total of over 6,000 gifts collected for children. This year, we surpassed our goal of 550 toys, collecting 630 gifts, dominating last year’s total and setting high expectations for next year’s. How did we donate all of those toys this year?

The Drive

Multiple trees were beautifully decorated awaiting gifts to fill the floor under them. Employees didn’t have to venture far to find one of these trees; in fact, most employees passed the trees every day.  Communications were sent and posters were hung, informing everyone that the time had come once again. As the drive drew closer to its end, gifts started to overflow the spots waiting for them. Bears peeked out from bags provided to accommodate the overflow; balls sat under the trees just waiting to be played with; games lined the floor beside the trees.

Toys under one of the three Christmas trees.

The Donut Sale

Thanks to our wonderful elves, employee volunteers who went above and beyond the standard call-of-donation duty, a first-ever toy drive donut sale took place. With boxes of donuts in hand, our elves took advantage of the lobby areas this year, taunting every tired, every hungry and every sugar-addicted employee that came to work one Tuesday morning during the toy drive. The sale itself raised $726 and employee spirits, as many enjoyed a yummy donut without guilt, since they were helping the kids, of course.

TA employees enjoying the donut drive.

The Pick Up

Packing and loading 630 toys was no easy task, but our elves rolled up their sleeves, put on their hats and spent one Monday night packing each toy carefully to go to its new home. The next morning was just as Christmas should be, snowy, white and full of smiles, for the toy pick up. Volunteers from the local chapter of the American Red Cross arrived with two empty cargo vans ready for the goodies. Don’t worry; our elves braved the cold to fill those vans to the top with goodies.

TA employees and American Red Cross volunteers packing up toys.

The Celebration

The Northeast Ohio chapter of the American Red Cross invited families affected by disasters this year to attend the celebration. 

Table filled with toy donations.

Photo credit: American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

“For many of the Red Cross employees and volunteers who work on the toy giveaway, it’s the best day of the year.  Thanks to the generosity of TravelCenters of America employees, families who often lose everything they own have a chance to have a happy holiday season,” said Jim McIntyre of the American Red Cross.

17 Cleveland-area families attended the celebration at the Red Cross headquarters in Cleveland, including 51 smiling children. Each child was able to take home three toys of their choosing. Some of the toys were taken to other chapter offices in Akron, Canton, Youngstown and Mansfield to help heighten the holiday spirit for other children.

The affected families were very grateful to receive the support. Johnita Smith said, “God has blessed us with the Red Cross and other agencies that help. This definitely comes at just at the right time for me and my family, as Christmas would have been very hard without assistance. We are very grateful.”

Kids enjoying their new toys.

Kids enjoying their new toys.

Photo credit: American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

Similarly, Zoralys Cruz said her family lost everything and would not have otherwise had presents for Christmas, so the toy drive means a lot. Her family is hanging in there, recovering little by little, and they are grateful for everything.

Check out this short video put together by the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio and to hear a special message from Tina Arundel, Manager of Corporate Communications for TravelCenters of America. 

If you would like to donate to or volunteer for the American Red Cross, go to www.redcross.org.

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