ELYRIA — Shirley Crawford has known about the Not-Forgotten Box, the annual toy drive held by The Chronicle-Telegram in conjunction with the Elyria Salvation Army, for years.
But she has never donated.
There always was some reason: not enough time, too many grandchildren or too many other obligations.
Looking back, she said the excuses she told herself now seem rather silly. Then her health began to decline and as she battled illness, she pondered why she had never given to the initiative that aims to ensure Elyria kids have a happy Christmas.
“I wanted to make sure I fulfilled this one dream I had,” she said.
She told her grandson, Derrick Harris, who owns Harris Floors, about the idea, and he and his wife, Brittani, immediately got on board. The couple ventured out from 7 p.m. Thanksgiving Day until 2 a.m. Black Friday, hitting three different Wal-Marts in search of just the right toys.
“We started, and it just kept mounting up. We couldn’t stop,” Crawford said.
Using their own money without solicitations from friends or other businesses, the grandmother, grandson and his wife managed to accumulate 116 items. It took several trips to bring everything — socks, trucks, Barbie dolls, bikes, scooters, make-up kits, winter coats and action figures (just to name a few) into The Chronicle-Telegram’s offices Wednesday afternoon.
The sizable donation from one family is helping the toy drive slowly inch toward the ultimate goal of 8,000 toys.
But with a deadline of Saturday and thousands of toys still needed, Elyria Salvation Army Major Bob Sears said he is trying not to worry whether enough toys will be collected.
“Am I worried? Yes and no,” he said. “We have a lot of faith in the Lord, a lot of faith in The Chronicle-Telegram and a lot of faith in the public that makes this possible.”
While toys and gifts are still coming into the Salvation Army and The Chronicle, Sears said volunteers are busy packaging items for children based on their wish lists. This year, about 1,200 children will be helped through the Christmas Assistance Program.
“We would love if everything was in now because it would be easy to know if we will have everything to fulfill each child’s wish, but we are used to it,” he said. “People always make it happen.”
Brittani Harris said the idea was to get something for children of every age. They took the suggested gift list very seriously and tried to buy something for every category.
“We wanted to go bigger,” she said. “We had to keep telling each other to stop.”
Three-year-old Sean Harris, Derrick and Brittani’s toddler son, was happy to show off a Hot Wheels play set that he would have loved dearly, but knew it was for another child.
“We just keep telling him other little boys and girls don’t have toys, and we’re helping them,” said Brittani Harris. “He thinks it’s sweet.”