It is the season giving and you can help make the holiday brighter for children in need.
The annual Toys for Tots campaign will kickoff at noon Saturday at the Great Wolf Lodge. Since there isn't enough snow for a sleigh just yet, Santa will be escorted to the event by U.S. Coast Guard helicopter at 2pm.
While the event is free, participants are encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped toy to donate to Toys for Tots. If you would like to donate a larger item, consider donating a bicycle through the Bikes for Tikes program.
Last year, the campaign collected a record 25,000 toys that were distributed to an estimated 8,000 children in the region. This year, campaign organizers say the expect to see even more requests for assistance.
"The agencies we serve are all telling us that there is even greater need in the region than last year," said Maggie Kent, the Toys for Tots coordinator for Northwest Michigan.
Northwest Michigan Toys for Tots works in Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Kalkaska, Antrim and Benzie Counties. They work through nearly all human service agencies, including Father Fred, Salvation Army and Goodwill Inn. Toys for Tots also collaborates with other counties to assure that no child goes without toys at Christmas.
More than 100 Toys for Tots collection boxes are distributed throughout the region, and most are clearly identified by signs. Donation sites in our area include The 7&4 Studio, Toys R Us, Bill Marsh Auto and Fox Motors.
Bill Marsh dealerships are the new drop-off locations for this year's Bikes for Tikes program. Organizers hope to collect hundreds of bikes that will be distributed to needy northern Michigan children through the annual Toys for Tots program.
"Getting a new bicycle for Christmas can be the most special gift that a child receives," says Bill Marsh Jr. "But many area families just don't have the money for a bike. We're hoping this program creates hundreds of bright smiles on kids this Christmas."
Bikes for Tikes has worked with Toys for Tots for ten years and has collected, purchased, assembled and distributed over 1,000 bicycles.
Drop off locations for the bikes will be at Bill Marsh dealerships at Bill Marsh Ford Kalkaska, Bill Marsh Buick/GMC on South Garfield and Bill Marsh Hyundai on US-31 South.
Businesses are challenged to have employees collect money and see how many bikes they can buy for the campaign.