LISBON - Showing the overwhelming generosity of the local community at Christmas, county sheriff's deputies on Wednesday transported more toys than ever before to Akron Children's Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House in Akron.
Sheriff's deputies aided by two prisoners from the county jail loaded up not only a large box truck with toys, but also a van and an SUV. It took more than two and a half hours to get the vehicles loaded.
In the toy drive's fourth year, organizer Deputy Jon Price said people gave more than he ever expected. He and others involved in the collection joked that next year they may need to rent a semi truck to make the trip.
Mostly new and unwrapped, the toy piles began growing in the last few days. Price said the collection started with a box, but soon outgrew those expectations. Collections were taken at both the sheriff's office in the basement of the county courthouse in downtown Lisbon and out at the sheriff's office on County Home Road.
Donations even came into Mahoning County after a Youngstown television station ran a story and had to be rerouted to the Columbiana County department. Another story was written by Salem News managing editor J.D. Creer, which started more donations flowing.
At some point on Tuesday it was decided to start loading them up in order to get the growing piles of items out of the way. So much had come in, it was decided to not only give toys to Akron Children's Hospital, but also take some to the Ronald McDonald House, along with a combined monetary donation of $1,250 and $135 in gift cards.
Price said he knows well how many families are spending months at a time, including during the holidays, at the Ronald McDonald House. With the many health issues his own 4-year-old son has faced since birth, he and his wife know both Akron Children's Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House in Akron well.
"With all the experiences I have had with my son with the hospital and the Ronald McDonald House," Price said, "this is a way to give back. But this is more than I ever expected. This means a lot."
Starting the toy drive four years ago was a way for Price to help other families going through tough times with their child hospitalized. For many, celebrating the holidays does not seem possible while their child is ill. Price also knows many at the facilities have helped he and his wife, Pearl, deal with their son Sebastian's 17 surgeries and nearly losing the boy on more than one occasion only to see him fight back.
"It's been a blessing," Price said of the support of the community for the project. "I really want to say thank you to everyone for their donations."
Price also thanked sheriff's office clerk Jen Tucker and the entire staff from the sheriff's office all the way to Sheriff Ray Stone for their support of the toy drive. He added, for instance, Sgt. Mike Helman donated his time to help drive one of the vehicles into Akron.