Copperas Cove’s Blue Santa organization Thursday will start drafting its list of children who will benefit from the annual toy drive.
“We didn’t always get Christmas presents that were new and shiny. Most of the time, they were refurbished or repurposed,” said Tad Kasten, the Blue Santa organization’s board president, about his own childhood Christmas experiences. “So I try to make other children’s Christmas a little better.”
Blue Santa volunteers work year-round to ensure children in low-income families in
Copperas Cove, Kempner and Pidcoke receive toys for the holiday.
Thursday also will mark its big push to start its toy collection.
The organization will set up in the Cove Terrace again this year and will accept applications for gifts for five days, said Kelly Dix, a Kempner resident who has participated in the program for 13 years.
“We found out several years ago there was a need because there is no other service to help those families in this area,” she said. “When we first started the program, it was just 100 to 200 and every year it is has increased. About 500 to 600 children has been pretty a steady number for the last three to four years. You can definitely tell the peaks and lows with the economy.”
Kelly expects to see a list of 500 to 600 children this year.
While applications are being taken, volunteers will start collecting toys, Dix said.
Some volunteers shop all year, but others don’t start until the organization knows who it is shopping for.
Other volunteers will check donation boxes in several Copperas Cove businesses daily to collect unwrapped toys residents donate, she said.
“We attribute all of our success to the support the community gives us,” Kasten said.
Besides drop boxes, there are several city- and community-wide events where a large number of donations are contributed.
The first is the city’s Toy Bowl at Bulldawg Stadium. The event concludes the Copperas Cove Parks and Recreation youth football season, where the two best 10-and-under and 12-and-under teams compete for the city title.
The event is two-fold, said Andy Cedillo, director of parks and recreation. It allows the city to showcase young football players, and it allows the city to give back to the community.
“Everyone that comes is encouraged to bring a packaged toy,” he said. “We filled up a truck last year with toys. We had to have received 300 pieces, which was really nice and good to see.”
Kasten said other events that benefit the Blue Santa program include the city Christmas parade where volunteers ask attendees to bring monetary or toy donations for its elves to collect and the Tri-County Toy Run, which benefits several holiday gift programs throughout Bell and Coryell counties.