While an army of volunteers and donors makes the annual Liberty County Toys for Tots drive a success, local twins Zack and Tim Seiders, 19, sacrificed their own gifts and allowances to share holiday magic.
For the second year in a row, the teens saved their allowances to purchase bicycles for the drive, and their mother agreed to match the amount they contributed. Last year, they donated 10 bikes.
But this year they saved enough to provide 20 bicycles, according to Zack Seiders, who has Asperger’s Syndrome and will attend Savannah Technical College in January.
“I and Tim have a lot of things, and in terms of Christmas, we don’t really want that many things — a couple video games, but that is it,” Zack Seiders said. “In reality, there are a lot of young kids that don’t have a lot, and it’s hard for their parents to get them what they want. … So why not have some fun and give to others?”
Combined with efforts from a bevy of organizations and the help of several Liberty County High School student volunteers, the boys’ spirit enabled the local United Way office, which coordinates the drive, to complete packaging the toys in advance of its deadline.
Gifts were distributed Saturday to several of the 970 estimated families who applied to receive toys for 2,700 children, according to United Way Liberty County Executive Director Jennifer Darsey. Two-hundred more children were on a waiting list and Darsey hopes to serve them.
Darsey said the group collected about $30,000 in funds plus toy donations, an increase of about 50 percent from the $19,000 raised last year.
“It’s easier to shop for the demographic and age-appropriateness of the children when I have the money,” Darsey said. “Monetary donations go a long way.”
Liberty County High School students raised almost $4,300, while the Liberty County Board of Education raised a substantial amount and provided a headquarters for the operation at the Performing Arts Center, Darsey said.
Organizers also solicited donations over four Saturdays at Walmart and benefitted from businesses’ efforts, Darsey said.
A bike run and auction coordinated with Liberty Propane collected about $2,700 and several toys, according to Liberty Propane officer manager Kelly Klotz.
Klotz said the Seiders contacted the company last year to learn how to become involved.
“The idea they came up with on their own, and they sought us out,” Klotz said. “I think it’s really neat, and everyone that hears is touched by it — and they’re not looking for recognition.”
“We raised $600 but maybe I saved a little more than my brother. Then mom matched what we saved, so we had $1,200 bucks to spend,” Zack Seiders said, also speaking on behalf of Tim, who has Autism and is less verbal.
The brothers completed chores like “pulling weeds and other yard work, which we both hate,” Seiders said, and also tackled laundry, took out the trash, emptied the dishwasher and tended to their four dogs.
Next year, they have their sights set on providing and building 30 bikes, Zack said — though it will be a stretch.
“It’s an amazing story that these kids are able and willing to make a gift like this and to think of others the way that they have,” Klotz said. “I’m very proud that they chose Toys for Tots as an outlet to give such a gift.”