The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

December 11, 2011

500 children receive gifts during toy giveaway

JOPLIN, Mo. — Joplin’s La Quinta Inn on South Range Line Road became a winter wonderland on Sunday for the Will Norton Memorial Toy Giveaway.

An estimated 5,000 gifts were given to about 500 children from 197 families, many of whom lost everything in the May 22 tornado.

Amy and Larry Jump lost their home at 2424 S. Joplin Ave. in the tornado. They have since found a rental house and are in the process of rebuilding.

On Sunday, the couple sat with their three sons, Conner, 8, Caden, 6, and Lucas, 3, sipping hot cocoa after receiving their presents. Amy said the event was much bigger than she anticipated.

“We were expecting a present or two, but they each have a huge bag,” she said. “I think it’s really cool that they can do something like this for so many kids.”

Conner said his favorite part of the event was receiving his toys, but he won’t know for sure what he got until he opens his presents on Christmas Day.

Volunteers from Relief Spark and the St. Lou Crew for Joplin spent months organizing the event.

Rose Fogarty, a founding member of the St. Lou Crew for Joplin, said Will Norton’s story was one of the reasons her group was founded. In the nearly seven months since the May 22 tornado, Fogarty said the St. Lou Crew has made several trips to Joplin bringing tractor-trailer loads of supplies, food and musical instruments. This weekend, the group was back with the fruits of a toy drive and a $5,000 donation from the South-Side Lions Club of St. Louis, as well as for the toy giveaway.

Fogarty, whose group of volunteers worked through the night in preparation for the event, said it was essential to attach Will Norton’s name to the event for two reasons — he inspired the creation of her organization and because of his generous spirit. Norton, a Joplin High School senior who graduated minutes before the storm hit, was among the 161 people killed by the tornado.

“We wanted to put his name on this because this is something he would have done,” Fogarty said.

Sidney Ray, founder and executive director of Relief Spark, said the event included a visit with Santa Claus for the children and a “gingerbread room” with refreshments.

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