Niskayuna event gathers donated toys for needy kids
By NED CAMPBELL
NISKAYUNA — Two-year-old Gavin Farrow learned a valuable lesson Saturday: If you give to those in need, you just might get to sit in a firetruck.
The Niskayuna boy got a tour of a Niskayuna Fire District No. 1 rig from a fireman after donating a musical toy at the sixth annual Stuff the Truck event outside LT’s Grill on Balltown Road.
Of course, his mom, Katie Farrow, was hoping he would learn the simpler lesson that if you can give, you should. Gavin, an only child, gets lots of presents under the Christmas tree, his mom said, and she wants him to know that “he’s a lucky guy.”
“Can you say ‘share?’ ” she asked a chilly Gavin, who wore a woolen white cap and puffy blue jacket.
“Share,” he whispered back.
District No. 1 fire Chief Dale Lingenfelter said it’s rewarding to see kids donate toys that will go to other children.
“It makes you feel good to see children learn at such a young age how important it is to give at Christmas time as well as receive,” he said. “Kids tend to light up when they see the firetruck, so that’s always fun to watch, too.”
The fire department worked with Sondra’s Fine Jewelry and the Marine Corps to host the event, which benefits the Albany Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots drive. Members of the Navy also volunteered.
“We’re looking to collect 200,000 toys in the Capital District over the next few weeks,” said Sondra Stephens, owner of the Union Street jewelry store, referring to the region’s entire collection effort that runs through Dec. 20.
She said she expected that Saturday’s drive, which ran from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., would collect between 1,500 and 2,000 toys for children in need. By 10:30 a.m., about 250 toys had been donated.
“It’s just amazing that you can put the word out in the community, and the people just come out,” she said, “and they look for us every year.”
Everyone who donated a toy Saturday was entered into a drawing for a 14 karat diamond necklace valued at $900, Stephens said.
Men have won the prize the last two years, she said, “and a lot of women bring us toys, so it was ironic. So we’re telling all the women maybe this year a woman will win.”
Angela Salavantis didn’t seem interested in winning the prize. She donated a Barbie and nearly made it back to her car before Stephens stopped her and gave her a raffle form to fill out.
“I live right around the corner, and I deal with kids,” said Salavantis, an elementary school nurse at Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Parish School in Niskayuna, “and sometimes I know that they would like something under their Christmas tree.”
This story originally appeared in The Daily Gazette.