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El Paso County Colorado District 49

Santa’s Toy Express still goes on, just different

In its 19th year, El Paso County Colorado District 49ís Santa Toy Express event organizers and transportation drivers RJ and Marysu Berry continued with the tradition, but with a twist this year because of COVID-19. This year, donations were distributed to 52 students in the district. Transportation drivers dropped off donations at seven elementary schools where families were notified to pick up their gift bags.In the years prior to COVID-19 restrictions, students were bussed to the districtís transportation department where they met with volunteers to enjoy a morning filled with holiday cheer. Activities included a hot breakfast, shopping at Wal-Mart for student families, gift wrapping, games and a visit with Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Each student also received a new backpack, jacket, stocking and toy.This year volunteers collected and bought a scooter for each student, a small additional toy, a new coat and backpack, blankets made and donated by the Falcon Education Foundation, hats and gloves, stocking stuffers and a $50 gift card to Wal-Mart.Many community organizations donated items and volunteered, including Aspen Auto, McCandless Truck Center, Farmers State Bank, Falcon High School JROTC, Kathy Kenda and Wheels of a Dream, a non-profit organization led by Academy District 20 transportation driver Jim King. The program also received a generous anonymous donation of $1,000.ìThe one thing we canít do is lose sight of those who have a needí that would be inexcusable,î said RJ Berry, event organizer. ìWe could not do this every year without the hard work of our volunteers. Itís a great story of resilience during a stressful year, and we hope things return to normal for next yearís event.î

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