Holiday toy drive a success in Milford

Participants in the Gr8 Holiday Give Toy Drive.

Participants in the Gr8 Holiday Give Toy Drive.

The Gr8 Holiday Give Toy Drive collected hundreds of new unwrapped toys in an effort to help ensure every child received a gift this holiday season.

WTNH News 8 held their fifth annual Gr8 Holiday Give, a friendly “competition for a cause” between their news (anchors and reporters) and weather (meteorologists) personalities, morning team vs. evening team, who joined forces in a team effort with a dual mission — collecting toys to benefit both Toys for Tots and the Milford Boys and Girls Club.

The supportive local community donated hundreds of toys between the event’s kickoff date of Nov. 13 and its culmination Dec. 16 to any one of the 19 state-wide drop off locations. “This event is wonderful, when you see people from the community come out to help other people, there’s something about it that really makes the season what it is all about - helping others,” said Gil Simmons, chief meteorologist at WTNH News 8. “In today’s world and society we hear of so much negative, it’s something like this that refills you with positive and I really like that.”

“It’s wonderful that we have so many members of the community come out,” Keith Kountz, morning and noon anchor at WTNH. “The support the kids are getting for Toys for Tots and the Boys and Girls Club has been overwhelming. It’s great this time of year to know that so many people in our community care and open their hearts and give. I have children and know how important it is for a child to have something on Christmas morning and during the holidays and how much that means. It’s important to take part in these efforts when we can.”

“It’s such an honor to do this every year,” said Laura Hutchinson, Good Morning Ct co-anchor at News 8. “We see how generous the public is, people are busy and they’re making the time to come out here, they’re spending their money, I have little kids coming up to me giving to other little kids, it is so heartwarming and festive!”

Milford Boys and Girls Club Executive Director Megan Altomare said, “The club runs an after school program and a summer program for kids ages 5-18. We charge a minimal fee of $200 per year to attend, we scholarship about 26 percent of the kids. Around the holidays whenever families say they need a little extra help, we give it to them. This year we have fully adopted 60 children and have probably helped about 57 families.”

“We are so excited to sponsor again this year, it’s been so successful with so many people from the community coming out wanting to give back this season which is the most important part of the season,” said Kelly Franz, marketing director at the Connecticut Post Mall. “We’re so thankful to everyone who came out and that we are able to donate to Toys for Tots and to the Boys and Girls Club of Milford.”

Toys for Tots is a program run by the United States Marine Corp Reserve, founded by Major Boll Hendricks of Los Angeles, California in 1947. New Haven County Toys for Tots Coordinator Sergeant Vierea said, “It’s been an amazing day watching the community come together and donate to those who need, this is definitely going to benefit a lot of children, Toys for Tots has been around since 1947, this is the 71st annual, we will be taking care of approximately 3100 families and we have already distributed at least 1,200.”

“We are here collecting toys for the Toys for Tots organization, we will pick them all up, and count them and then we’ll distribute to all the families,” added Corporal Drury, Assistant Coordinator.

Many children also participated in acts of goodwill. “I have a lot of toys and I want to share,” said 11-year-old Anthony Palluzzi and his Dad.

“We are so excited to be partnering with both the Connecticut Post Mall and WTNH,” continued Altomare. “They are so generous helping support the Boys and Girls Club. Each year we get a few hundred toys, it’s really amazing. We allow our members parents to come in and to go shopping so that way Christmas morning is very special and we also make sure that each of the boys and girls gets a toy from Santa at the club. At the end of this drive I see lots and lots of smiling faces, we’re very thankful.”