The spirit of the season was all around at The Christmas Toyland hosted by the Salvation Army at their distribution center behind Carmike Theater on Monday, December 17. The distribution center was transformed from a warehouse to a magical Christmas Toyland… each room was filled with either bags of toys, stockings filled with goodies, dolls, clothes, bicycles, scooters and even wagons to give away to children in need this Christmas season.
You may have seen the Salvation Army Angel trees while you were out shopping last month; those trees held the names of children who come from families who are struggling this Christmas. And while the deadline to become a sponsor and submit a present for the angel tree is over, it is clear from the amount of toys at the distribution center on December 17, that many in the Roanoke Valley would rather give than receive this holiday season.
After walking into the transformed warehouse, there were large candy canes around the door along with Santa Claus standing there to greet each newcomer. After entering through the candy canes, each guest could choose to head towards the goody table with cookies, candy and delicious drinks or take the guided Candyland Trail tour through the world of toys. There were stunning performances by the SW Virginia Ballet Senior Company as well as the Kingdom Life Ministries Gospel Choir. An heirloom doll silent auction took place throughout the evening and Santa Claus himself even stayed for the entire event. Hundreds of dolls were given away with beautiful handmade outfits from around the Roanoke Valley. Tables upon tables were filled with homemade sweaters, hats, scarves and blankets from a local organization called “Sweaters for Children.” The organization is made up of ladies who hand make everything at no cost to the community.
Many families came to the open house to show their children the true meaning of Christmas and share the lessons of thankfulness and giving with them. But it wasn’t just families who came, many others in the community stopped by to show their support and love for others this season as well. In fact, the Roanoke Valley community is what made this whole thing possible according to Suzanne Gandy, the Executive Director of Development for the Salvation Army: “This is an open house so that the community can celebrate the joy of giving this holiday season… Without them, we wouldn’t be here… We will have around 4,000 kids to help this Christmas… it takes a community to make it happen.”
The spirit of the season filled the magical toyland just as love shone forth with every bag filled with toys and goodies for the children in need. Santa watched the entire event with a big smile and an approving “ho, ho, ho.” It seems that many in our community will be on Santa’s good list this year.