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Dec 16, 2012 8:47 PM by Dustin Klemann - Q2 News

Billings rallies, donates for Toys for Tots final weekend

BILLINGS - The Toys for Tots campaign begins in September with planning the agenda for the following months.

Fast forward to Black Friday.

As soon as doors opened for the frenzy, volunteers for the campaign shopped in the fray, not to shop for the best deals for themselves, but for the underprivileged in the Billings community.

While months of donations provided a bevy of toys for children, Saturday through Sunday's 24-hour drive gave a boost to the numbers.

Anonymous donors in the Billings community provided 1,577 unwrapped gifts and close to $2,000 in a 24-hour span.

Marines and volunteers collected throughout the night at the MetraPark entrance accepting gifts and monetary donations.

"This morning we started right at the break of dawn at 6 a.m. And it's been a steady stream of people with checks and toys. It's been great seeing the community," said Bill Kennedy, Yellowstone County Commissioner, who remained at the site throughout the event.

Kennedy continued on the generosity of local residents and businesses, "I had a gentleman from a company this morning, gave us a $500 check and just said, 'it's been a good year for us, we just wanted to share.'"

Prior to the weekend's event, more than 13,000 gifts await at St. Vincent of de Paul for a child's smile.

But Toys for Tots isn't exclusively for children.

Locally, the campaign extends to teenagers in need of Christmas gifts and sometimes they can be the most difficult to shop for.

"Tots for us range from all little kids, down from 5-years-old, all the way to 18 years old. As we know there are kids out there at that age who don't have anything at all so we want to broaden our horizons to everybody," said Sgt. Cabir Figuerao, who is in his first year of volunteering for the program.

He commented how impressed he was with the variety of toys but even more so by the number of people donating.

After some surveying, Vicki Massie, Volunteer Coordinator for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul found her answers regarding the ever-changing wish list of teenager.

"Best Buy gift cards, Xbox Live gift cards, GameStop gift cards. But also gift cards for Target or Kmart or Walmart so they can buy hoodies or tennis shoes that are in style right now that they can't afford," she said.

Beginning this week, children will shop for their toys at St. Vincent de Paul and receive the Christmas they deserve.

"It's a community effort. I have to say thousands of hours have been delivered to make sure that Christmas is there for the kids," said Kennedy.

Every donation stays right here in Yellowstone County.

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