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Kids helping kids - locals help struggling Toys for Tots
Anna Whitaker, left, and Ames Rackleff, both six years old, donned Santa hats Saturday as they helped pack boxes of toys for Toys for Tots. The two pals had a combined birthday party earlier this year. Instead of gifts, they asked for money to buy toys to donate to the annual Christmas in the Boro and Bulloch Toys for Tots effort. Both children said they enjoyed giving toys to others less fortunate and challenge citizens to do the same. - photo by Special
    It was a happy birthday for 6-year-old friends Anna Whitaker and Ames Rackleff, but what they got for their shared birthday party will make a number of  kids even happier this Christmas.
    The two school pals both had a birthday near the same time, and decided to combine them with one party, said Pam Whitaker, Anna’s mother.
    But when the two thought about how many gifts the two would possibly get, and the fact that guests would have to buy two gifts for the party, discussion among Ames, Anna and their parents began about alternatives.
    “We were trying to think about something to do rather than have everybody buy two gifts,” Ashley Rackleff said.
    Then the children thought of Toys for Tots.
    She and Anna often discuss the fact that some children do not get as many toys as she has, Pam said. Throughout the year Anna gives excess toys to Goodwill, but since Christmas is coming up, someone mentioned the annual Toys for  Tots collection. “They said they wanted to do it,” she said.
    When the big day came, guests brought gift cards and money totaling around $260.
    Then came the fun part. Ames, Anna and their parents went shopping.
    “We went shopping last Wednesday,” Rackleff said. “He (Ames) was fine with it. We let them pick out one gift for themselves, and then they picked out the other gifts for kids their age.”
    Whitaker said Anna started out with girl toys, but ended up picking out a few gifts for boys, too. Ames first chose a selection of “boy” gifts, then grabbed a handful of gifts for girls.
    “It was really neat,” she said. “They did not care about the toys. Anna told me ... the best thing about her birthday was she got to give presents to other people.”
    Anna and Ames took their toys to the Statesboro Police Department Saturday and helped pack boxes for the annual Christmas in  the Boro and Bulloch, a cooperation between the Statesboro Police Department, Bulloch County Sheriff’s Department, Wal-Mart, Toys for Tots and other volunteers.
    Toys collected from Toys for Tots donations, as well as others purchased by the police department volunteers, paid for by a monetary donation from Wal-Mart, are packed in boxes after being sorted by the age and sex of the children receiving them, said Statesboro Police secretary Tina Greenhaw, event coordinator.
Donations down; toys needed
    However, in spite of the efforts and selflessness of Ames Rackleff and Anna Whitaker, donation boxes are distressingly empty, Greenhaw said.
    The economy has people tightening their wallets, but also has more families seeking help, she said. Unless donations increase, there may be families that do not get  assistance from Christmas in the Boro and Bulloch this year, she said.
    Whitaker said the children planned to generate further donations by visiting businesses in the area, and hoped their actions would pose a challenge to citizens to match  their efforts.
    It feels good to give, Anna said.
    “It makes me feel good because I gave toys to other people who don’t have any,” she said, giggling when someone told her Santa would look favorably upon her generosity and kindness.
    Rackleff said Ames was under the weather Tuesday and could not talk about the experience, but said he was proud to have the birthday event and excited about giving.
    “They had a fun time that day they spent the money,” Whitaker said.
    Both children are expected to ride along when  the toys are delivered Dec. 19, according to Statesboro Police.
    The deadline for donating toys is Dec. 14, Greenhaw said.  Locations of donation boxes (new, unwrapped  toys only) are as follows: Statesboro Herald, Sav-A-Lot, Army Recruiting Center, Sea Island Bank (Mall, South Main and Fair Road branches), BB&T (Mall branch), Wal-Mart, Harvey’s Northside Drive West and Fair Road.
    Also, Dollar General Store (Northside Drive West, Fair Road, Gentilly Road, Brooklet), Bi-Lo, Northland Cable (Vine Street), Fred’s Dollar Store, Big Lots, Jackson Hewitt, Nessmith-Lane Continuing Education Center (Georgia Southern University), Hanner Field House, GSU Police, Beaumont Inn and Suites, Statesboro Police Department and Bulloch County Sheriff’s Department.

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