JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Channel 4 devoted Thursday to collecting new, unwrapped toys to help make a merry Christmas for the less fortunate children of Jacksonville.
Until 7 p.m. station employees welcomed people who dropped by 4 Broadcast Place to donate new, unwrapped toys for children up to 12 years old. Party organizers are preparing for 8,000 children to attend the Children's Christmas Party of Jacksonville.
PHOTOS: Channel 4's annual Toy Drive
Despite Thursday's rain and cold, the toys and smiles kept coming after the collection started at 7 a.m.
Footballs, dolls, basketballs, bikes, truck beds and trunks filled with boxes and bags full of donations.
Linda and Don Podany donate to the toy drive every year. It puts them in the Christmas spirit and also reminds them what the holidays used to be like.
"I was young once and we had young kids and we always enjoyed shopping for our kids," Don Podany said. "Our kids are now older so we are trying to find other kids to do something for so they won't have to go without a toy."
One of the first vehicles into the parking lot Thursday morning was a bus from the Church of Oakland -- filled with toys.
"We put the word out a few weeks ago and people have been bringing in toys ever since," Pastor Christopher McKee Jr. said. "It's a time to be thankful for how we have been blessed and to be a blessing to others. As a church, it's our responsibility to shine a light where we can. It doesn't solve everything but it's a piece of it and so we are glad to be a part."
The Podanys make sure they watch the news the day of the Christmas party, "just to see the smiles on their faces."
"I wish I could be there because I know those kids eyes get as big as basketballs at times. It's just a great feeling," Don Podany said.
For people who couldn't get to Channel 4 on Thursday, new, unwrapped toys can be dropped off through Dec. 16 at all Ace Hardware stores in northeast Florida. Click to find the Ace store near you.
The annual Children’s Christmas Party of Jacksonville will be held from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16, at the Prime Osborn Convention Center. There is no registration, with toys given first come, first served. Children get three tickets that can be exchanged for toys. Some of the tickets are randomly stamped for that child to receive a bicycle.
The Children’s Christmas Party of Jacksonville is a nonprofit organization. Money is donated throughout the year by local companies and individuals to help buy toys in bulk.
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