Student donates time to toy drive close to her grandfather’s heart

Anthony Holloway

A Kent State student and her grandfather helped to cure some Christmas blues in Columbus, Ohio, by giving more than their time to needy shelters.

Over winter break, freshman education major Kaylee Williamson joined her grandfather in participating in the One New Toy Program, a yearlong project that is aimed at improving families’ Christmases through gift donations to central Ohio area shelters. The program is nothing new for Williamson, though.

“I have been helping off and on since I was five, but this was the first year I have been really involved,” Williamson said.

She became interested in the program after hearing about it from her grandfather.

“My grandpa is always talking about it. He is obsessed with it,” Williamson said with a chuckle.

Another part of the reason she participates in the program is because of the reactions that come along with the gift delivery.

“The people at the shelters freak out when they see all the gifts,” she said. “They make you feel like you’re the greatest person in the world.”

Williamson’s grandfather, Tom Wilson, a Columbus letter carrier, made it his 15th year participating in the program. Wilson, a co-leader of the program, enjoyed this particular year, which had a gift in store for him – his granddaughter’s helping hand.

“It was special this year because Kaylee got to go along,” Wilson said.

Wilson said that the program is something he is very passionate about. One of his core reasons for wanting to be a part of the program was because of a situation he experienced as a child.

“When I was eight or nine, my dad was really sick, and back then there was no sick leave, so we had a Christmas with no gifts,” he said. “I just want to make sure no others kids had to go through that.”

The program was started 15 years ago by Doug Gulley, the former president of the Letter Carriers Union. Williamson and Wilson, who is better known as the “head elf” by program volunteers, teamed up with them to make the program a success.

The program’s funds come from donations from local patrons, chapters of the letter carriers union, special dinners and other fundraising events. The donations include money, purchased and donated toys, gift cards and donated books.

Wilson and fellow leader Yana Miller started raising money in the early spring all the way until early December. The money was then placed in a special account until mid-December, when volunteer shoppers began purchasing gifts.

“This year we were able to spend around $8,000 on toys and another $1,000 on gift cards,” Wilson said.

On top of the toys and gift cards, One New Toy also received a donation from Barnes and Noble giving an additional 2,000 children’s books and toys.

One New Toy targets children from infancy through 12 years old. The program was started so that “each child had at least one new toy,” Wilson said. The gift cards are for children over age 12 and for adults.

Contact news correspondent Anthony Holloway at [email protected].