Trooper Hill Toy Drive reaches hundreds

Published 8:49 am Wednesday, December 9, 2009

FRANKLIN—Hundreds of area children were granted their Christmas wishes on Tuesday, as parents were able to shop for free toys and coats and other necessities to make their spirits bright.

The Trooper Hill Toy Drive collected enough to give away 5 play toys and 2 educational toys to each of 950 needy children this year — a far cry from the 35 kids who were helped during the toy drive’s inception four years ago.

The toy drive, which continues today, is named in honor of the late State Police Senior Trooper Robert Hill Sr., who was struck and killed by a car while on duty in 2006.

“He would be so pleased because he loved this community,” said Program Administrator Michelle Buchanan. “We just wanted these parents to take care of business and not stress about where the presents were going to come from. I told them, ‘Go pay your bills. Christmas is on us this year.’”

On Tuesday, volunteers including state police troopers, area clubs, youth groups and more helped shoppers pick up items for children as Christmas music wafted over the crowd.

Volunteer Jesro Nesbitt helped Chiffon Hill shop for her two kids: Amari, 2, and Quanari, 7. She picked out toys and games and clothes.

“I’m a single mother trying to raise them. It’s hard to pay bills and get stuff for Christmas, too,” Hill said.

“This is the spirit of Christmas – being able to help someone,” Nesbitt said, smiling. “There’s a lot of joy in being able to give back in that way. It’s wonderful.”

Latoria Boone went shopping for her son Jakari, 4. She said Christmas morning was going to be joyous thanks to the toy drive.

“When he wakes up, he’s going to be so happy,” she said.

Boone was shopping with Robert Hill Jr., a junior at Norfolk State University, who said he was glad to see the toy drive as a big part of his dad’s legacy.

“When I was a little kid we would go out and help people at Christmastime,” he said. “I remember his big smile. He’d be amazed at this.”

At the toy drive, rows and rows of tables adorned with red table cloths were covered with brand new toys, clothes, toiletries and more.

“We’re steady stocking,” said Donna Sauerbier, who runs the local Salvation Army office. “We have lots of good stuff.”

Instead of doing their own separate toy drive, the Salvation Army teamed up with the Hill Toy Drive and brought a truckload of toys to the giveaway.

“I was overwhelmed when I saw that,” Buchanan said.

She said Southampton High School recently had a dance and donated all of the proceeds to the toy drive, which was touching as well.

“From that money we were able to buy hundreds of hats, gloves, scarves, jackets and blankets,” Buchanan said.

When Sgt. Gary D. Falls died suddenly in June, his family asked that people send money to the toy drive instead of buying flowers for the funeral.

On Tuesday, his widow was able to help honor Falls’ memory by volunteering at the toy drive.

“He’s looking down and smiling,” Cheryl Falls said, wiping away tears. “Every child deserves to have a Christmas.”