GALLUP — A national charity brought toys, clothes, educational items and other necessities to more than 1,500 area children Saturday as part of its ongoing effort to assist children facing poverty, illness and other types of adversity.
Gallup was the Kids Wish Network on Tour’s fourth stop, since the beginning of the events in December 2010. The event was organized by the Kids Wish Network in conjunction with the mayor’s office and the Gallup McKinley County Chamber of Commerce. They were aided by around 125 volunteers from around the community.
“Each child got a huge bag of toys,” Bill Lee, director of the chamber of commerce, said. “Some were so big the kids couldn’t carry them.”
Lee said many of the toys were educational, but each bag also had a few that were simply fun. Each bag contained around $150-worth of items, Lee said.
The items are donated and purchased by a network of donor companies involved with the network, Kids Wish Network senior editor Alicia True said.
The bags were organized to be gender and age appropriate. Kids ages 3-15 were eligible for participation.
“There are stuffed animals for the younger kids, accessories for the older girls, action figures for boys and books for different ages,” True said, as well as many other items.
Kids were selected for participation based on teacher and councilor recommendations, but any family that requested to be a part of the event was invited, too.
“We didn’t exclude any kids,” Lee said.
Kids Wish Network has a number of requirements for the cities they help.
“We go to cities and counties that have a high child poverty rate, then we speak with the mayor and go from there,” Evy Acosta, programs coordinator, said. “If the mayor agrees, we start working with city officials and move on from there to bring items to the area.”
Acosta said that Gallup was different from other cities they’ve visited because they encountered children growing up in homes without running water or electricity.
“There’s a lot of child poverty in the U.S.,” Acosta said. “But most of those kids do have electricity and running water at home.”
Area businesses also contributed to the event Saturday by providing in-kind services, including lodging for out-of-town volunteers and refreshments throughout the day.
“I saw things this weekend that touch your heart and at the same time break your heart,” Lee said. “They make you smile and make you cry all in one turn.”
Lee mentioned that the Gallup High School football team was an invaluable asset.
“We couldn’t have done it without their strong backs,” he said.
Hardworking volunteers from the area made an impression upon the Florida-based Kids Wish Network organizers, including Acosta.
“Gallup has a very close-knit community,” Acosta said. “The volunteers just wanted to help children from their community, and that’s something I really admire.”
Gallup, New Mexico