‘Tis the season for Sierra Nevadans to give | SierraSun.com

‘Tis the season for Sierra Nevadans to give

Emma Garrard/Sierra SunViviana Corona, 8, picks out a toy while volunteering for Toys For Tots at Kings Beach Elementary School Saturday. The presents were distributed Sunday to deserving families.

Some 500 local children were given another reason to smile over the weekend.

Embracing the holiday spirit, anonymous Santas had purchased a Christmas gift for each of them.

A handful of volunteers on Sunday distributed dolls, puzzles, books, race cars and stuffed animals ” all donated as part of this year’s Toys for Tots drive ” to more than 160 families from Kings Beach to Tahoma.

Families arrived at Kings Beach Elementary, children looking on with wide eyes as their parents each received a bag of gifts.

“It’s like this little light in their eyes ” the excitement,” said Executive Director Sylvia Ambriz of the Kings Beach Family Resource Center, as she sorted through piles of toys the previous day. “It’s not what’s inside the bag ” it’s what the bag holds. The mystery.”

Referred to the program through various agencies, the children come from struggling families who may be too financially stretched to purchase gifts.

The perceived need was greater this year, said Officer Kristin Mann of Placer County’s community services department, who coordinated the drive. More families signed up for the program to receive toys, yet the piles of toys were smaller than in years past ” likely a reflection of the economy, Mann said.

“But [it’s] just being able to help in some small way,” she said.

The day before the gift distribution, the hallways of Kings Beach Elementary were transformed into Santa’s workshop.

Colorful piles of toys filled the hallway ” an oversized stuffed penguin with a bright blue scarf, sets of Play-Doh, Barbie accessories, race cars, Legos and puzzles cluttered the school.

With the help of North Tahoe High School volunteers from the Interact Club, the Kings Beach Family Resource Center and Kings Beach Elementary staff, Mann sorted through the toys, picking out a present for each child.

“You take the bags, and you just go shopping,” she said.

The scene fit every kid’s dream of a perfect Christmas, said Anja Wittels, president of the school’s Interact Club, which coordinates volunteer opportunities for its members.

“It’s kind of changing the spirit of Christmas for me,” said Wittels, 16, a junior at North Tahoe High. “It’s having more of a giving feel, than getting.”

Toys for Tots has been an annual tradition in the community for at least 13 years,

said Mann.

The toy collection and distribution program was initiated by the United States Marine Corps Reserve in 1947. It has since given more than 370 million toys to more than 173 million children, according to the program’s Web site.

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