In 2009, eight-year-old Paul Stone of Arvada told his parents he wanted to start a club that would help people. His parents, Chris and Crystal Stone, both public school teachers, talked with Paul about what he could do.
“There were kids in my mom’s class who didn’t have toys, and I felt like God wanted me to help,” remembers Paul, now a freshman at Ralston Valley High School.
Crystal Stone asked the elementary school where she taught to identify a number of kids whose families couldn’t afford toys for Christmas. They spread the word they were collecting toys, waited for donations, and distributed them to families in need.
Paul’s Toys for Hope continued in the following years, and has now helped more than 1,100 kids.
In 2015, when Paul was in the eighth grade, Crystal was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. “It was really hard on me and my sister,” Paul says. “I decided that there were probably others who were going through the same thing. I wanted my toy drive to benefit kids whose families were dealing with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.”
With the help of his principal Tara Peña and guidance counselor David Ruppert at Oberon Middle School, Paul continued his toy drive while his mom fought cancer during Christmas 2015. Peña asked other principals of nearby schools to help collect toys and gift cards. Schools submitted lists of people who had experienced illness or tragedy over the previous year, and these families were invited to the toy drive.
Invited parents got to ‘shop” for gifts, then Paul and a small group of volunteers wrapped them, benefiting a total of 50 kids. “This was great for parents going through chemotherapy,” Paul says. “They aren’t supposed to go to malls or stores where there are lots of people, because they could get really sick.”
This year, Crystal is cancer-free, and Paul is again collecting toys for families dealing with loss and illnesses. “It is my hope that it will continue every year, even after I graduate,” Paul says. “I”d love to see thousands of kids have a nicer Christmas and know that their communities support them, even when times are hard.”
HOW FAMILIES CAN HELP:
- Purchase new toys and/or gift cards. Drop them off at Oberon Middle School, 7300 Quail St., Arvada, 80005, until December 15. Paul adds that gift cards for older students are especially needed: “Middle school and high school students are often overlooked in toy drives, but they are dealing with some pretty difficult things.”
- Donate scissors, tape, gift wrap, bags, and labels.
- Donate items for adult care baskets.
- Mail monetary donations to Oberon Middle School. Make checks payable to the school, with “Toy Drive” in the memo line.
- Volunteer to help Paul’s Toys for Hope achieve non-profit status, if you have expertise in this area.
- Start a toy drive in your community. “Even if you help one person, you”ve made a difference,” says Paul.