ORANGE PARK – Santa, elves and characters from Star Wars in costume greeted eager kids as they burst through the door at Orange Park Elementary for the first “Tad’s Toy’s” toy giveaway …
ORANGE PARK – Santa, elves and characters from Star Wars in costume greeted eager kids as they burst through the door at Orange Park Elementary for the first “Tad’s Toy’s” toy giveaway Saturday afternoon.
About 180 children were referred and sponsored by social workers or agencies such as Clay Behavioral Health. Kids got to pick three presents from a list of gifts. At a long table, volunteers passed out presents and a coordinator with a laptop rushed around the cafeteria with a spreadsheet to document and account for the toys as they were passed out.
Tobie Stann brought her three kids: a second-grader and a kindergartner who attend Lakeside Elementary along with her two-year-old.
“We came out for the kids,” Stann said. “It’s a really great event, they’ve been really nice and accommodating.”
Dwight and Veronica Erving took their children Kennedy, a Lakeside Elementary fourth-grader, and Virgie Lee, an 18-month-old. After a quick picture with Darth Vader, the Ervings walked out with six presents and thanked organizers.
“They’ve been looking forward to it all week,” Veronica Erving said.
“It’s good for the kids and the community to come out and have good time,” Dwight Erving said.
“It’s a big surprise for them.”
James and Stacy McClure brought Ridgeview Elementary kindergartner Tavian Lattimore, and Grayson Bryan, their sister’s one-year-old son.
“I’m glad there’s good people who do this kind of stuff,” James McClure said.
“It’s very generous and it’s personalized,” Stacy McClure said. “It’s very important for their families and for them to feel wanted.”
Tad’s Toys was created by Kathy Lawrence, project manager of SEDNET, the Network for Students with Emotional/Behavioral Disabilities, which serves Clay, Duval and Nassau Counties. Lawrence’s son Tad, a senior at Orange Park High with cystic fibrosis, died in 2003. Tad’s attitude and memory inspired her, she said.
“For his memorial, I decided I wanted to do something that just made kids happy. That’s what he would have liked,” Lawrence said. “He didn’t like to be known as the sick kid. He was a lot of fun and he was involved in drama. He was always looking out for the underdog.”
Lawrence said the number of kids receiving presents exploded since the event was announced. She said “Tad’s Toys” would assist kids in need year-round, not just at Christmas.
“(Tad) would say, ‘I don’t want to be known as Tad with cystic fibrosis, I’m more like you know Prince or Cher or Madonna. Just Tad,’” Lawrence said. “He was just very happy and lived his life well. Very loved. I hope (kids at the event) felt as special as Tad always felt.”