Toys for Tots & Holiday Helpers collecting gifts for kids

Every year, thousands of deserving children throughout Monroe County benefit from the charitable work of two leading organizations who work tirelessly to ensure that every boy and girl makes it onto Santa’s Nice List.

“A lot of the list comes off the school’s free and reduced lunch list – about 5,000 to 8,0000,” said Toys for Tots volunteer Kyle Burkel. “We raise more toys per capita that any other Toys for Tots Drive in the country.”

The drive, part of the Marine Corps national Toys for Tots program, culminates with a Poker Run & Parade on Saturday, Dec. 17. The ride leaves Gilbert’s Resort in Key Largo at 11:30 am and concludes at the Oceanview Inn and Sports Bar in Islamorada.

“The Keys being what they are, everyone helps everyone else. All the toys that are raised go to local kids,” Burkel added.

Toys for Tots drop-offs include any of the Islamorada Fire Stations, Capital Bank or Ocean Sotheby’s Real Estate.

In Key West, the major player is Wesley House Family Services which organizes the Holiday Helpers of the Florida Keys toy drive.

Spokesman Jeremy Wilkerson relies on a partnership of 10 agencies to collect toys for families who, for a number of reasons, may not have the resources to provide for their children during the holiday.

They accept new, unwrapped toys at any of their offices throughout the Keys plus any Centennial Bank or Keys Federal Credit Union branch, Royal Furniture and Womankind.

Both organizations are also accepting checks.

For more information on the Poker Run contact GySgt. Lou Slagle at 305-401-0149. The Wesley House can be reached at 305-809-5000.

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