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New organization formed to help needy kids at Christmas

A small group of Brookhavenites familiar with the annual effortsmade for the Toys for Tots organization are branching off andforming their own, informal group – Toys for Needy Tots.

>Group founder and Brookhaven firefighter Andrew Graham saidhe intends for TFNT to reach beyond the usual clientele of Toys forTots and make Christmas merry for the children of “really, really”needy families. He hopes to provide new toys, some clothing, andschool and children’s supplies for the children of single and verylow-income parents.

“I figure all single parents need help – I know they catch it,”Graham said. “You have people who are needy, but there’s going tobe some people who are really needy, and we just want to do somegood stuff to help them.”

TFNT is targeting children up to 15 years old.

Understandably, TFNT will operate much like its originalcounterpart. Families seeking help from the new organization maypick up applications at Fire Station 3 on Industrial Park Roadbeginning Monday, Dec. 1 and going through Saturday, Dec. 6.

But before the organization can sort through applications, itneeds contributions. TFNT is seeking donations of new toys andmoney to buy new toys, which will be distributed on Tuesday, Dec.23. New toys may be donated at four drop-off points aroundBrookhaven: Central Fire Station, Cable One, O’Reily Auto Parts andLincoln Truck Parts.

Monetary donations may also be deposited at these locations.Checks should be made out to Toys for Needy Tots and sealed in anenvelope.

Graham said he hopes to raise enough money – $2,000 to $3,000 -and collect enough new toys to help 50 to 60 local children with anew toy, a useful item of clothing like a new coat and perhaps afew school supplies.

Graham said leftover funds would be expended in an effort tomake sure any last-minute families are taken care of.

Anyone contributing to the organization’s cause can rest assuredthe money will go to a child who needs it. Graham said TFNT will beworking with the local chapters of other organizations like Toysfor Tots and the Junior Auxiliary to ensure there is no “doubledipping” – one applicant receiving the same help from severalorganizations.

“We’re looking for people who have not had any help,” he said.”I don’t want to give out toys and find out they’ve already been toanother group. We’ll be working to make sure the names don’t comeup again.”

To raise awareness of – and money for – TFNT’s first year inoperation, the organization will be hosting a lengthy, old-fashion”trail ride” through Brookhaven and west-central LincolnCounty.

Randy Hutson, who oversees the famous Wesson wagon train thattravels to Jackson annually, has teamed up with Graham to hold anapproximately 12-mile trail ride of horses, mules, wagons andbuggies on Dec. 6.

The horse parade will depart from the Lincoln County LivestockSale Barn at 9 a.m. and travel in a giant, clockwise circle,crossing west Brookhaven and the Old Red Star community beforeeventually arriving back at the sale barn from the north.

Hutson said anyone with a horse or mule wishing to participatein the parade is invited – the more riders, the bigger the parade,the more money raised. Riders will be asked to make a $10contribution or a toy of $10 value.

“Basically, we’re just gonna ride for the kids,” Hutson said.”It’s the same thing as having a motorcycle ride for afundraiser.”

Hutson said he looking for riders who can contribute wagons,buggies and trailers for hay rides so that more people may ridealong in the parade.