Here’s a fun, little story to kick things off…

Last night the D&D group that I help to run collected over $350 worth of toys and money for our local chapter of Toys for Tots here in the Tampa area.

It was an idea that I just sort of picked up and ran with on a whim, really – one of the other gaming groups at the store where we play had mentioned trying to put together a toy drive in the forums and the thought that immediately came to mind was, “Hey – we should be doing something like that!” and so we did. That was a little over two weeks ago, so we didn’t really have a lot of time to prepare or gauge interest, so frankly I was a little concerned whether anybody was even going to donate! But we pushed ahead anyways – soliciting raffle prizes to give away and spreading the word the best that we could in the short amount of time that we did have.

So fast forward to the night of the event – I stop by Little Caesars to pick up pizzas, and the second I walk in the store … we’ve already got donations – lots of ’em! And so I spend the next 45 minutes before actually starting the game that I was to run that night scrambling to get everything set up – containers to place donations in, displays of all of our swell raffle prizes, the many pizzas for everyone to eat.  The night ended up being one giant whirlwind where I barely had a chance to eat dinner amidst it all, however by the time it had all come to an end, we had collected not only the three mountains of toys seen in the pictures below, but also a fair amount of cash to buy additional toys with as well, and I feel fairly confident that everyone involved had a great time doing it, too.

Some people gave literally bags of toys, where others maybe just bought a raffle ticket or two, but we all came together and with everyone doing whatever they could do, less than two dozen people managed to raise enough to ensure that many local children have a brighter Christmas and you just never know when something as simple as a favorite stuffed animal or board game unwrapped could mean all the difference in the world for somebody whose parents had more to focus on simply keeping food on the table than toys under the tree for their little ones to play with. I especially enjoy giving toys for the charities that I try to help each year – I’m a big fan of Child’s Play, in particular, and maybe it’s just because I have so many wonderful memories of opening presents myself on Christmas morning growing up, I just can’t imagine the thought of anybody not partaking in that magical experience on one of the happiest days of the year!

As for our little D&D toy drive, it may only be a day behind and technically the toys haven’t even been picked up by the Marines yet, but I’ve already been brainstorming how to make next year’s event even better. Cooler raffle prizes, more notice, maybe even suggesting a longer drive itself that pits us against the guys who play Magic and Warhammer and all of the other gaming factions that call our local game store home! It’s funny how just days ago I was absolutely terrified at the thought of not being able to collect a single dime, and yet now in hindsight I can’t wait for another chance to do even more!

Giving is fun and a little addictive, and yet still only one of the many reasons why I love this time of year…

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