Toy drive aims to fill buses to the brim

On Tuesday, Dec. 16, yellow school buses will roar down Washington Avenue in Albany to the Marine Corps Reserve Center with their seats filled with toys, not students.

For the second year, South Colonie School District will be collecting items for the Marines' Toys for Tots program, with the hope that people will donate enough toys to stuff a bus to the brim. Donations can be made over a period of a few weeks, and those in charge of the Stuff the Bus program say the effect the toys will have less fortunate children lasts a lifetime.

Last year, five South Colonie Central School District school buses carried 10,000 toys to the reserve center.

Brian Casey, vice president of the district's board of education, said he was taken aback when Kathy Ogborn, one of the district's school bus drivers, brought the idea to his attention.

"She said, 'I want to try to stuff a school bus with toys.' I said, 'You're crazy!'" Casey said.

But, Casey thought, if it was possible, then stuffing a school bus with toys would be a great way to support a good holiday cause. The district got in touch with the Marines Toys for Tots program and collaborated with them on a plan to fill one school bus with toys.

One school bus turned into five that year.

"We created a monster -- a friendly monster," said Casey. "It just blossomed and bloomed!"

About 10,000 toys were collected from locations throughout the community, including Colonie Center, Toys 'R' Us, and Kohl's, as well as all of the schools throughout the district. Before transporting the toys to the reserve center, it took four storage units to house the Barbies, baseball bats, racecars and more.

According to Staff Sgt. Mary Castilla, regional coordinator for Toys for Tots, the toys that were collected went to children in 17 counties. She said the program appears to be doing well this year, too.

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