‘Make Every Child Smile Toy Drive’ Makes Sure Hundreds Have Presents to Open on Christmas

500 gifts went to families in the Twin Ports who may have been experiencing hardships before and because of the pandemic.

DULUTH, Minn.- T’ was the weekend before Christmas, and all through Shake It juice shop were hundreds of toys, and just outside sat a line of rides for the Make Every Child Smile Toy Drive.

“I think holidays are hard for everybody and especially the last 2 years with COVID and hardships,” said Tara Aase, volunteering for her second year in a row.

“And I enjoy seeing people I enjoy helping people, I enjoy seeing people smile and there’s less fortunate people than myself or even the people that have been helping so I think it’s important to give back to your community,” she said.

It was the 7th annual toy drive, organized by Mike Letica, with area businesses sponsoring age groups ranging from infants to teenagers.

Others made matching donations, like City Councilor and Korner Store owner Derek Medved, who matched $2,500. “It’s a good feeling,” said Aase.

“It’s good to see everybody come together as a full community to make sure that there’s presents for the kids under the tree and that takes a little bit of stress of the parents especially right now,” she said.

Thanks to business owners and community members, 500 gifts went to families in the Twin Ports who may have been experiencing hardships before and because of the pandemic.

“Been a rough, been a rough year or two with COVID and everything,” said Gary Lust.

14 volunteers delivered gifts to more than 130 cars throughout the afternoon, driven by grateful parents like Lust. “Heard about it last year but missed it, couldn’t get here in time.”

“Feels good, knowing there’s still some good people left in the world,” he said. “Normally circumstances are a little better than they have been the last year, y’know.”

“So, but just knowing that, that our kids won’t feel that, that struggle,” said the father of five.

And to Santa’s helpers at the drive, many of them parents themselves, that’s what Christmas is all about. “It’s very important, I couldn’t imagine a child waking up in the morning and not having something under the tree,” said Aase.

“Even if it’s just one or two things, it’s just, it’s important that every child doesn’t have the memory when they’re older of not having something underneath the tree,” she said.

This year about 25 families were also adopted for the drive, receiving food, school supplies, and winter jackets along with gifts.

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