WHITMAN — The Whitman Area Toy Drive, along with Whitman Police, hosted a collaborative effort to Stuff A Cruiser on Sunday, in honor of Sgt. Michael Chesna, a Weymouth police officer killed in the line of duty this year.
Toy Drive Co-organizer Donnie Westhaver shook his head in disbelief over the expansion and success of the annual event. He looked over the 50 plus rows of eight-foot tables and his eyes filled with tears.
“I could not have imagined this 18 years ago. We started with just two tables,” he said.
Jane Plasse co-organizer called the event a huge success.
“What an amazing day! We couldn’t ask for a better day except the weather,” she said. “The community was awesome bringing so many donations for the Whitman Area Toy Drive in honor of Sgt. Michael Chesna. I was so glad to have met his entire family. What a great tribute.”
Jason Ho of Needham came down to the event after seeing a flyer on Facebook.
“I have a full time job and I can afford to help others now,” he said. “It was something I saw that was shared through my car club. I wanted to make a donation.”
Santa was waiting to talk with the children as families dropped items off to stuff the cruiser. He asked many what they might like for Christmas. A joyful face of a child was clearly reason to smile as emotions surfaced for some of the volunteers and family members of Sgt Chesna, who took photos and thanked those who donated.
Grace Eezepik, 2 1/2, of Whitman was learning about generosity in giving to others. In the rain she carried a toy donation wearing her raincoat, boots and a smirk.
She walked with purpose, dropped off her gift on the back of the police cruiser and promptly told Santa she would talk to him from across the room but would not be taking a picture with him. Evoking laughter from the gathering of adults it was a stark reminder of why they do what they do each year — simply for the innocence of the children.
Westhaver described the Whitman Area Toy Drive as a one-stop-shopping event as families in need do get whatever they need in age appropriate toys, along with wrapping paper, tape and — if needed — even a Christmas tree.
There are approximately 10 people who assist with the toy drive at its busiest time but volunteers of up to twenty five people have come in from various groups to offer a hand.
The ages of 10-15 can be considered the tween-age in which gift cards are usually given, he said.
He also gently reminds givers that you cannot eat a toy. Often time someone would like to make a donation in the form of money- we do assist with providing a holiday meal gift card to the local a grocery store in some situations, he added.
“We have created a bond between Whitman Area Toy Drive the Chesna family along with Whitman police,” said Westhaver.
Cindy Chesna widow of Michael Chesna spoke about supporting the event in the future, according to organizers. She emphasized the family was really pleased about the upcoming collaboration of future events, Westhaver said.
The event tally was astounding after all of the collections were completed organizers counted 35 to 40 gallon trash bags at maximum capacity of toys.
For information on assistance or donations for the Whitman Area Toy Drive Donnie Westhaver’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org or call 781-447-6883. Voice messages will be returned.
Jane Plasse can be contacted at email@example.com along with her cell 781-953-0642.