An anonymous donor bought the store’s entire toy section so that every child who stopped by the store on Saturday could go home with a free toy, stuffed animal or book. Alicia Stice
Every kid who visits the Fort Collins Goodwill before Christmas this year will get a free toy, thanks to an anonymous Secret Santa who has carried on the tradition for close to a decade.
The giveaway is bigger than ever this year because of an influx of donations from around the community, including many of the donor’s friends. Goodwill sent truckloads of toys to the Fort Collins store, 315 Pavilion Lane, to stock it with upward of 10,000 presents for kids.
The promotion started Dec. 7 and will continue through Christmas Eve, the longest period it’s gone on since the donor first cut a check for the value of the store’s toy section. This is the first year Goodwill has had to ship in toys from other parts of the state for the promotion.
The Secret Santa, a Fort Collins resident, has been buying out Goodwill’s toy section each Christmas for somewhere between seven and nine years — the tradition is so longstanding that nobody can remember quite when it started. He said he walked into Goodwill all those years ago after he had an epiphany about “the grace of giving.”
“I was searching for the meaning of Christmas for me,” he said.
The holiday toy giveaway kicked off Saturday with a celebration at Goodwill featuring treats, free Chick-fil-A and a visit from Santa Claus.
Goodwill spokesperson Jessica Hudgins Smith called the donor’s act of kindness “a double whammy of goodness.”
“Not only are kids getting free toys, but the donations from him and his friends are going back to our mission programs,” she said. Goodwill’s programs support adults with barriers to employment, people facing developmental and economic challenges, seniors, youths, veterans, farmers and ranchers.
Goodwill’s definition of “toy” is pretty liberal for the promotion, said Todd Wakefield, senior director of retail. Kids could choose something as small as a book or stuffed animal or as big as a bike.
“We’re not gonna be Grinches,” Wakefield said.
The store manager will make an announcement every 15 to 20 minutes about the free toys in case visitors don’t know about the promotion.
The donor is hoping to go even bigger next year, possibly including other nonprofit thrift stores in the area and even more community donations.
Jacy Marmaduke covers government accountability for the Coloradoan. Follow her on Twitter @jacymarmaduke.
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