Sometimes it’s necessary to take a little while to sit back and gain perspective of big events after they happen. If you’re anything like me, sometimes that means putting off the final steps related to said events…like compiling a photo album from your wedding, sending thank you notes after a party (sorry Mom, I know you raised me better), or naming your child after he’s born (just kidding, Barlow…)
That’s kinddddd of what happened with our 2018 Cypop for Tots recap. Apparently I needed to give myself a good year to let the information settle. After the BIGGEST, most inspiring, and most challenging Marine Toys for Tots fundraiser yet, I wondered how I could adequately summarize the happenings of the multi-week event and thank all the individuals who made this herculean effort possible. I procrastinated. And here we are.
As Summer approached and passed, I imagined kids breaking out the new bikes and surfboards that they had eagerly waited to ride since Christmas, and I realized it doesn’t matter whether I’m sharing too many photos (there are hundreds of snapshots and videos to comb through), or being too long-winded. The important thing is making sure YOU know just how your generosity and involvement made a difference in the lives of kids and families in several communities, and ultimately warmed the hearts of LOTS of people who watched last year’s story unfold. So, let’s dive right in, shall we? And let’s start getting excited for this year!!
Since 2017, we had been planning on teaming up with local law enforcement to participate in Cape Cod’s annual “Stuff a Bus” Toys for Tots challenge. This is a friendly competition between the Police and Fire Departments of Cape Cod to see which town can collect the most toys for kids. But it came up a LOT sooner than we had been anticipating, which meant that we needed to hit the ground running as soon as Luc returned from the Kentucky Custom Knife Show. Like, RIGHT when he got back. We didn’t even have photos of finished product when we ran the raffle, but we didn’t want that to hold us back.
With the closure of Toys R Us in 2018, we actually wondered what we would do when Christmas rolled around. Toys R Us had always been a mainstay for us—THE place where we got the largest volume of toys. Without it, we knew we’d have to majorly up our level of local shopping, but we were really excited to do that. When we opened up the raffle, the donations started rolling in faster than ever before, so we rented a van from our local UHaul, and started hitting a few of our local favorites.
First, we went to Orleans Cycle for bikes.
Loads of bikes. Bikes are among the biggest and most appreciated gifts that we can give so we called our friend Barry at Orleans Cycle, and he helped us get the best of the best. Specialized and Trek bikes. We filled our van. Twice. Luc was like a kid in a candy shop.
The next day, we hit up our friends at Pump House Surf Shop for surfboards and skateboards.
We cleared all the skateboards behind the counter and Barlow caught some waves.
And then we made our way to the Red Balloon Toy Shop.
Red Balloon has some amazing, high-quality toys, and we couldn’t have been more excited to stock up on all the best things.
We also decided to get creative…and started placing some Amazon orders to supplement the local shopping. Between that, trips to KMart and TJ Maxx, our shop filled up astronomically.
We’re now on a first-name-basis with TJ Maxx staff—life goal achieved!
In the midst of our shopping for Stuff a Bus, we saw on the news that the city of Bridgeport Connecticut had been robbed of their Toys for Tots stash. What kind of person steals toys from a community in need? We’re not sure, but we were in a position to actually DO something rather than be upset about it, so we knew we had to. We reached out to Pastor Eric Torres and told him that we wanted to help. We hit the reset button and started the shopping process all over again!
This time around, we hit up Barry again for more bikes, and we reached out to a local music store for guitars, drums, and keyboards.
On Saturday, December 8th we had help from our local Brawler crew to bring toys from our shop to the police station to start filling trailers, an EMT vehicle, and their gorgeous, vintage ‘46.
On Sunday the Stuff a Bus parade was on, and we hit the road! Luc rode in the ‘46 Chrysler with Lieutenant Higgins (our awesome point person for the Orleans Stuff a Bus) and Barlow, Joe, and I arrived in Hyannis early to greet the parade.
All of the vehicles from various towns, filled to the brim with toys, proceed down the highway, sirens blaring, to the Hyannis meet-up-location where volunteers and onlookers wait to greet them.
Toys were then unloaded, counted (to see which town would be crowned “winner”), and loaded into waiting school buses for transport. We had never seen or been part of the Stuff a Bus parade, but it was an emotional experience watching all of the vehicles come down the highway knowing that countless people across the country and multiple communities came together to help bring holiday cheer to families in need.
Orleans came in 3rd place, which was a VERY impressive showing for our small town! Go team!
RIGHT as the bus doors closed, we got back to shopping for our Connecticut field trip toy delivery 3 days later.
After a few more long days (and nights) of shopping and packing the 26’ UHaul, we made the 3.5 hour drive down to Bridgeport to meet up with Pastor Eric to try and replace the toys that had been stolen from their shipping containers. We had gotten in touch with Pastor Eric when the story hit the news, and we told him we wanted to do what we could to help. They told us the age-range of kids they were serving and some particular needs, including a classroom that didn’t have enough computers. We. Were. On. It.
As we rolled up to the Bridgeport church, we were met by news cameras, volunteers, and Pastor Eric and his congregation. Our jaws dropped. We were stunned and a little overwhelmed by the amount of support. In the crowd, we spied some of our Brawler brethren who drove in to help us, and we breathed a little sigh of relief at seeing some familiar faces.
As more toys rolled out of the UHaul, everyone’s spirits lifted. The toys were unloaded and we rolled right into a press conference—a little unanticipated and nerve wracking (especially with a baby who had been very patient up until that point) but Luc did an awesome job talking to the media.
The church very generously made us a fantastic meal, and we got to break bread and share stories with Pastor Eric before we hit the road. Humbled, happy, and full.
We arrived back on Cape just as the news stories started to hit the evening news. Here’s a great one!
When the dust settled, we sat back and looked at the breakdown of events. In total, you guys raised $91,000 with:
- 9386 individual donations
- $75,980 worth of toys purchased and split between Cape Cod, Massachusetts communities and Bridgeport, Connecticut.
- $15,020 in direct donations to the following communities identified by Toys for Tots as needing an extra boost:
- Harlingen, TX – $3,000
- Wilmington, DE – $3,000
- Jasper, MO – $3,000
- St. Joseph, LA – $3,000
- Vicksburg, MS – $3,020
We’re beyond thankful for all the support you have given us and Toys for Tots over the years. More than that, we’re grateful for your kindness and generosity that has made a difference in the lives of kids and their parents across the country. We can’t wait to kick off this year’s events!