Every holiday season, the law enforcement community, firefighters, and medics spend the weekend in the parking lot of the East Side Wal-Mart collecting toys and gifts to be distributed to hospitalized children of the tri-state area. In its fourth year, 911 Gives Hope for the Holidays collected toys to be distributed to Deaconess Hospital, Deaconess Gateway, St. Mary’s Hospital, Methodist Hospital, Ronald McDonald House, and the Evansville Psychiatric Children’s Center.

The goal of the weekend is to fill a 53 foot trailer with new, unwrapped toys. The thought of filling an empty Atlas Van Lines trailer is a daunting one. 911 Gives Hope board members, volunteers, and radio personalities from co-sponsor Town Square Media get on the radio, the phones, and social media to encourage members of the tri-state to stop by and make a donation.
When this event began in 2009, the hope was to collect enough toys to provide gifts to hospitalized children to put a smile on their face and to help them in their time of need. Due to the overwhelming generosity of the tri-state, this event has grown to provide enough toys for the hospitals so that they can provide the toys to hospitalized children year round.

The organizers of the event were blessed with great weather this year. Two RV’s, the Evansville Police Department’s Mobile Command Center, a fire truck, a couple of ambulances, and multiple police and sheriff’s cars set the scene. Appearances by Santa Clause, local radio personalities, and members of the public safety community provided many opportunities for pictures and interesting conversation.

When we stopped by midday on Sunday, we were met by Police Chief Billy Bolin, Prosecutor Nicholas Hermann, and Sheriff’s Department Chief Deputy Dave Wedding. We saw children getting pictures taken with Santa, we saw our favorite radio personality, Johnny Kincaid, and we saw a 53 foot trailer that was about 90% full. In the remaining hours, people continued to donate by the armload, the cartload, and even the trunkload. In the final hours of the event, toys were delivered that had been donated in Henderson at Henderson Chevrolet, a co-sponsor of the event.
At the end of the weekend, the truck was filled. The hospitals’ needs will be met, and the children most in need of some holiday spirit will know that they live in a community that cares. Thanks to all of those who donated, volunteered, or otherwise made this event happen.