Motorcycles, emergency vehicles and two box trucks emblazoned with “Mahalo” on the sides filled the streets on Saturday morning for the annual Cascade Community Credit Union Rudolph Run.
Eighteen sponsoring businesses collected and bought 895 toys for children from low-income families and in the foster care system.
Cheryl Carson, the community partnership coordinator at the Department of Human Services, said the toys will go to more than 350 families who might not otherwise be able to buy a gift for their children.
“For most of these kids, they don’t get new things, they don’t get new clothes, sometimes they don’t even get a lot of meals,” Carson said. “They really are going without a lot of things, so to have a brand new toy for Christmas, it’s something that can bring a lot of light to a world that can be a little bit dark for kids.”
DHS received all of the gifts at the end of the run and spent this week sorting them by age group and inviting parents to come by and choose the toys for their children.
“The parents get to come in, and they get to shop,” Carson said. “It’s a connecting and it’s a bonding experience. Rather than the parent getting a wrapped gift, they pick it. It has meaning to them as they present it to the child.”
Carson said these parents often miss out on the joy of being able to give their children new toys and the Rudolph Run allows them to experience that joy.
“The expression on the parents’ faces when they come in and they see the room full of toys, some of them are just in awe that so many people in the community have given,” Carson said. “Not only is it a gift to the child, it’s a gift to the parent that this community cares about their child. A lot of people in Douglas County struggle themselves, yet still, people are giving to this program to make sure kids have Christmas.”
Mahalo Heating and Air Conditioning owner Erin Gogal said the two Mahalo trucks and an ambulance were just some of the vehicles filled with toys. She estimated $25,000 worth of toys were taken to the Department of Human Services.
Carson said it’s been going on longer than she’s been at DHS and she started 15 years ago. This is Mahalo’s 11th year being a sponsor for the event. Gogal said when her business started sponsoring, it was in the middle of the recession and a hard year for everyone, but she saw the community step up and has done it every year since.
“It was our first year in business and we just kind of fell into it,” Gogal said. “One time experiencing the event and we were sold. It’s the official kickoff of the holiday spirit for me. I think everybody has that child in their heart and they want to be a part of it.”