Vinnie Turner, left, and Sandra Bernhardt smile as they pick out a few extra gifts to put under the tree during the Christmas for Kids toy pickup. Organizers said the drive helped nearly 300 families make this season a little merrier for their children.

Photo by Shawn McHugh

Vinnie Turner, left, and Sandra Bernhardt smile as they pick out a few extra gifts to put under the tree during the Christmas for Kids toy pickup. Organizers said the drive helped nearly 300 families make this season a little merrier for their children.

Christmas for Kids helps hundreds in need

photo

Amber Kawcak and her son, Gage, 8, help distribute toys collected during the Christmas for Kids toy drive Thursday at Centennial Mall. Amber played a pivotal role in organizing the drive, and believes in the importance of teaching her children to value helping others.

— Courtney Niedermeier is trying to start a new tradition this Christmas.

“I want them each to pick out a present and have everyone watch while they open the first one,” she said.

But each of the four children in her house have been talking about waking up extra early in an effort to make the day of unwrapping presents last as long as possible.

“I don’t know if it’ll work,” she said. “They’re so excited. They love it.”

Niedermeier’s sister is living with her, but she still wants it to be a festive Christmas to remember despite there being eight people in her house.

That’s why she waited Thursday at Centennial Mall to pick up garbage bags full of toys provided by Christmas for Kids.

The annual program helped almost 300 children during this year’s giveaway at Centennial Mall on Thursday afternoon.

Earlier in the month, families who had extra needs this holiday season filled out applications complete with wishlists from each of the children in their families.

Program coordinator Amber Kawcak and her friends and family put in countless hours dividing up the toys and matching them up with children’s wish lists.

They tried to fill each list as best as possible, but there aren’t always enough new bikes for children who want them.

Still, most of the recipients were thankful when they received their orders.

After more than 100 hours of volunteer work, Kawcak said Thursday’s event made it all worth it.

“My favorite part is here, tonight,” she said. “People are so grateful. They’re so appreciative of what they get.”

She said she started running the program four years ago to teach her children about volunteering and giving.

“It’s such a great program,” she said, as she watched her two children running around in Santa Claus hats retrieving garbage bags of gifts for waiting clients.

Five-year-old Aftyn Kawcak wasn’t too young to know why she was playing Santa’s helper.

“It’s to give other people toys,” she said. “Sleds, barbies, bikes. Maybe their moms don’t have money or jobs.”

The donations come from the KRAI Holiday Drive, which brought in more than 2,000 toys and $6,000 in cash to shop for more toys.

Kawcak said the donations were more than normal, which was important because this year applications were up.

“It’s more than we’ve ever gotten,” she said. “And we’ve used it all. It all goes right to the children and Moffat County.”

Niedermeier, who has lived in Craig for three years, said she would never have been able to receive this kind of help in her home state of South Carolina.

“I think it’s a great program that really helps people who need it,” she said. “I keep seeing this kind of thing happening here. Everyone just pitches in to help the whole town.”

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