RICHMOND, Va. -- It is only November, but already a group of volunteers is wrapping boxes for Christmas. It's part of the Mason's Toy Box initiative. The group is decorating toy donation boxes that will be placed in businesses throughout Metro Richmond, as well as Charlottesville.
New or unwrapped toys left in the boxes will be given to children who will be hospitalized or receiving medical care on Christmas.
The idea came from a mother who lost her young son to cancer.
"My son Mason was a neuroblastoma warrior. He was diagnosed with stage four cancer when he was five. After a six-year battle, he passed away in June 2011," Mason's mom Kelly Kassay said. "Right before that Christmas, Charity had suggested that we deliver toys to the kids in the hospital to help grieve for the first Christmas without him. We had such an overwhelming response from the community that we decided we'd do it again."
Mason's Toy Box turns five this year. For Charity Woods, the project is a part of her Christmas experience.
"It's really the highlight of my holidays to see the children who otherwise are going to be waking up in the hospital, or waking up away from home at the Ronald McDonald House, or somewhere different," Woods said. "For them to be able to have the experience of Santa gifts, and just feeling that people who don't even know them, love them."
Kassay said the project has helped her remember Mason through the holidays.
"For me, just giving back helps me get through the holidays without Mason," she said. "Seeing his memory still be alive in the community, and how much his struggle is helping other people is humbling."
The volunteers involved Mason's Toy Box include not only friends and family, but also students and parents from local schools.
"Santa's in there," Woods said.
The toy drive is underway now. People interested in donating can bring new, unwrapped toys to participating businesses with the boxes. Here is a link to some of the locations with boxes in Richmond. If a business owner is interested in setting up a box, they can email firstname.lastname@example.org. The boxes will be collected starting December 15.