Countywide Toys for Military Tots helps local military families


Countywide Toys for Military Tots helps local military families

April 29, 2024
Students and teachers in front of a bus with packages in front of them

Warwick Valley Central School District Toys For Military Tots toy drive on Dec. 8, 2023.

Warwick Valley Central School District and WTBQ Radio teamed up for educational broadcasts, Board Member forums and community-minded initiatives aimed at being part of what makes a difference in peoples’ lives.  

Superintendent Dr. David Leach is the host of a highly rated show on WTBQ every Monday at noon entitled, “Your Schools.”  Taylor Sterling, Host of The Taylored Word and Co-Host of the #1 Drive Time Morning Show met with Dr. Leach regarding the annual drive they sponsor each year at the holidays. Taylor shared the reason for this drive with the students, explaining that there are children in Orange County that are not as fortunate as they are and who may not receive holiday gifts. She explained the WTBQ annual Toys for Military Tots Drive, which is a countywide drive that collects toys for military families and the toys are divided between children of Disabled American Veterans in Orange County and children of military either stationed or deployed from Stewart Air Force Base.

Taylor shared, “This drive was sparked by our Orange County Executive, Steven Neuhaus many years ago and has grown exponentially each and every year. It’s also a great learning experience for the children and teens to understand what “giving back” means, especially for the children of parents who protect and serve our country. Dr. Leach arranged meetings over a few day’s time so I could meet with the various civic groups of the elementary, middle and the high schools. They all were incredibly receptive, and their enthusiasm was contagious.”

Students across the district were all in and understood the importance of being part of what actually brings real joy… giving back! Specifically, the elementary students were ecstatic over the idea of participating in this drive. 

It’s important to look back at the inspiration and motivation behind this drive. As Taylor mentioned above, it was an experience that Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus shared regarding a train tour that he was on years ago that led to the annual Toys for Military Tots Drive

Taylor mentioned that Mr. Neuhaus was on a train traveling across this side of New York state to visit military families. Mr Neuhaus was broken-hearted as this was early winter and there were kids without coats on leading into the holiday season. Taylor recalls that Mr Neuhaus said, ‘How is this possible?” Taylor asked the County Exec that if they did not have coats for sure there would be no toys at the holidays.

Taylor and the County Executive agreed that they had to do something for the children of the military families who keep America and American citizens safe in their homes.

That was the impetus that led to the annual Toys for Military Tots Drive. And to remind everyone, it’s not just the children, we all must be part of giving back.

Taylor said, “We wanted to keep this local as we are well aware that there are numerous national toy drives in the country.  The many volunteers of the Disabled American Veterans in Orange County and the head of Communications at Stewart Air Force Base, always say that it is a true labor of love. At the end of the drive as in the beginning, there’s a photo op with all who have participated. To my shock, a school bus pulled up completely piled to the top, front and back with toys which the students had gathered. The teachers and students proudly stood before the bounty upon deboarding. I am sure these are the moments that all who participated will always hold close to their hearts.”

The Nam Knights of Orange County is an organization whose sole purpose is to aid and support veterans, military and law enforcement and they are the biggest contributors every year. However, last year, the students were tied with them! The purpose of the WTBQ drive echoes the motorcycle club’s mission, to honor the memory of American Veterans and Police Officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty, to assist Veterans and Police Officers in their time of need, and to promote community awareness through sponsorship and participation in various fundraising events.

Many businesses and professionals also had boxes in their places of business and collected toys for over two months for this drive. Last year was the first time the district contributed to the drive on a districtwide level. Groups at all four Warwick Valley Schools answered the call to be part of the drive, including the Sanfordville Elementary Leadership Club, the Park Avenue Student Council, and Student Senate members at both Warwick Valley Middle School and Warwick Valley High School.

The Sanfordville Leadership Club is comprised of 25 members from the third and fourth grades. Principal Johnna Maraia shared that as soon as the students were approached with the idea, they began to brainstorm ideas and dove right into promoting the drive. The teachers were an integral part of this drive as The Park Avenue Student Council, including Amy Buliung and Theresa Canfield.

“They were all so excited to participate and to be part of giving to others,” Taylor said. “The students who were part of the leadership club made all the posters themselves. They were also making morning announcements every day, encouraging people to bring in toys. You could see just how proud they were to be part of it.”

Equally enthusiastic were the students of the Park Avenue Student Council. Group advisor Ms. Buliung said that the students were genuinely moved by the idea that they could help kids their own age get gifts at the holidays who otherwise may not. 

They were so excited to get involved,” she said, adding that the Park Avenue team also did posters and morning announcements, and even made individual classroom visits to raise awareness. Park Avenue Student Council members even recorded a commercial at WTBQ,” which brought the most accolades from the listening audience.

The holiday spirit was also in effect around the drive at both the high school and middle school, where Student Senate members worked to drive great numbers of donations amongst their peers and their families! 

Juniors Gisela Gujar and Alyssa Dovicoare helped run the high school arm of the drive. At the middle school, the school’s Student Senate also managed to make an impression on the student body and drive awareness and donations. 

At the end of December’s drive, the district picked up the toys from all four schools, and students enjoyed getting together at WTBQ to help load the toy bus for delivery. 

“They couldn’t believe the number of toys that were donated,” said Ms. Buliung. “It was a clear message of how their consistent and heartfelt work brought so much joy to others. They also reached out to their school community, their classmates, and families The students were so proud of their accomplishments and well they should be.”

When all was said and done, the countywide 2023 Toys for Military Tots Drive collected garnered thousands of toys for baby to 12 years old for our local military families, at an estimated value of approximately $50,000! Warwick Valley Central School District is proud to have donated over a thousand toys for the holiday season.

Dr. Leach has already said that WTBQ can count on Warwick Valley schools to be involved with the drive again next year and every year thereafter.

“Our ability to come together as a community and collect all these toys shows how much we care about the area’s military kids and how dedicated our students are,” said Dr. Leach. “Our students, teachers, staff, administrators and our families delivered tremendous support and we look forward to helping families again this year.”

The district also joins WTBQ in recognizing some of the people and groups whose participation helps keep this campaign running every year including, Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus; former New York State Senator Mike Martucci, President of the Nam Knights, John Richichi, Director of Orange County Tourism & Film, Amanda Dana; Orange County Bank & Trust; John S. Burke Catholic, Congressman Pat Ryan, 

Michael Sweeton and Warwick Town Hall, Leo Kaytes Ford, The Computer Guy, Rhinebeck Bank, Sheriff Paul Arteta’s Office, Monroe Town Hall and Supervisor Tony Cardone, Sam’s Meat Warehouse, Minuta Architecture, McKesson Corp., Deerpark Town Hall and many more.


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