Tuscola County Christmas for Kids 2016

Tuscola County Christmas for Kids 2016

Small towns, big deeds: Tuscola toy drives carry on

Stephanie Barnum of Tuscola County’s Millington Township arranges donated toys for the Thumb Area Mud Runners’ Tuscola County Christmas for Kids project. The campaign provided toys for children in about 350 families last year, said Barnum, who serves with her husband, Herman, as chairpersons of the project. (Photos by John Cook)
Stephanie Barnum of Tuscola County’s Millington Township arranges donated toys for the Thumb Area Mud Runners’ Tuscola County Christmas for Kids project. The campaign provided toys for children in about 350 families last year, said Barnum, who serves with her husband, Herman, as chairpersons of the project. (Photos by John Cook)

Mayville’s Kennedy Carter and family, the Thumb Area Mud Runners and the Cass City Rotary Club haven’t forgotten children in need this Christmas season.
Even if – in the case of the Mud Runners inside their pickup trucks – they must find their way through mud, snow or past downed trees to deliver toys. “It’s definitely handy to have a four-wheel drive truck; I’ve had times a couple years ago where we were over on English Road near Kingston … and we literally followed the snow plow down the road to get a bag of toys to a house,” said Stephanie Barnum, 49, of Millington Township, co-chairwoman of the Mud Runners’ Tuscola County Christmas for Kids drive.
“I was so thankful that plow was going down the road,” Barnum said. “A few years ago we had a big snowstorm and some trees were down and we had to go five miles out of the way to go around a tree.”
The Mud Runners collect unwrapped toys as well as donations to their program today from 4 to 11 p.m. at the Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie 2380 hall, 651 State Road, in Vassar. Anyone paying $5 or bringing an unwrapped toy of about $5 in value receives admission to the event to receive food, beverages and hear music provided by Dragonfly Entertainment.
Santa Claus appears at 7 p.m. at the event, where volunteers serve sloppy joes, hot dogs and nachos to donors. In the coming weeks, Barnum and her husband, Herman — co-chairman of the Mud Runners’ project — help distribute unwrapped gifts inside black plastic garbage bags to families, allowing parents to wrap the gifts before Christmas day.
“We provide about three toys per child,” Barnum said. “We also put in two smaller items — usually a game for the family — and if we have extra things such as coloring books and crayons, we’ll put them in the bag as well.”
The Barnums have seen the need rise since they began volunteering for the Thumb Area Mud Runners’ toy-collecting project 29 years ago.
“When we joined the Mud Runners in 1987, that Christmas I think we delivered toys to maybe 150 families, and last year we were up close to 350 families,” Barnum said. Proceeds from another event — Ladies’ Night from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday at the Vassar Golf & Country Club — also benefit the Mud Runners’ Christmas for Kids project. Women attending the event pay a $5 entry fee to peruse gifts offered by about 25 artists and vendors, and receive food, drink tickets and raffle prizes. Grill 19, the course restaurant, offers specials on food and drinks that evening. For more information, call 989-823-7221.
Barnum said she’d like to receive all gifts through Dec. 16 in order to arrange bags of toys and deliver them. Donors may call or text her at 989-660-0787. Donors also may email Barnum at: tamrxmas4kids@yahoo.com. Families in need wanting to receive toys, or prospective donors, also may send their names and addresses, or phone numbers, to: Thumb Area Mud Runners, P.O. 542, Millington, MI 48746.
Toy and gift collection also has begun in Mayville, where donors may drop off items at Mayville District Public Library, 6090 Fulton St., through Dec. 14.
Stacy Windham said she and her family members, including her 21-year-old daughter, Kennedy Carter, deliver the donations to Children’s Hospital of Michigan on Dec. 15, for distribution to young patients there. Carter is awaiting a second kidney transplant while dealing with end-stage renal disease, Windham said.
Young people housed at the hospital “look for a wide variety of toys — everything from infants to teenagers, and maybe the teenagers want a hand-held video game or a gift card for Walmart as opposed to a baby toy,” Windham said.
Carter received treatment at the hospital as a teenager prior to receiving a kidney transplant in 2010.
“For five years, post-transplant, it was basically like flicking a light switch — she literally went from a really sick kid to a normal life,” Windham said. “But unfortunately, earlier this year in January, she got the flu and was extremely dehydrated and so what would be a normal couple-day illness for us made her stay in the hospital for 50 days.
“She became extremely dehydrated and it took a toll on her transplant, so she just went back to dialysis and she’s going to get listed again to receive a second kidney transplant.”
Carter knows the significance of receiving a gift as a child housed at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, her mother said.
“She got to experience it first-hand because she literally got diagnosed right around Christmas when she was a teenager,” Windham said. “She immediately started to receive health care and be hospitalized for a long time.
“It sucks when you’re young and you can’t be at home with your family. Children’s Hospital goes above and beyond to try to make it better for the children, and the only way they can think to do it is through donations.
“We benefited from it and we know how it feels, so we want to pass it on.”
The Rotary Club of Cass City also is accepting gifts for its Christmas for Kids program that serves children from birth through age 18. Club members have set up boxes for gifts at the following Cass City locations: Independent Bank, Thumb National Bank, Chemical Bank, Hills & Dales General Hospital and the village of Cass City office.
Donors also may help the project financially by writing a check to “Cass City Rotary Club Foundation” and mailing the checks to: Rotary Club of Cass City, P.O. Box 63, Cass City, MI 48726. Checks or donations for the project also may be given to Emily Phillips-Lasceski.
Tom Gilchrist is a reporter for The Advertiser and can be reached at gilchrist@tcadvertiser.com

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