By James BrabenecDecember 10, 2019
FORT SILL, Okla. -- Holidays for junior enlisted service members' children will be brighter again as Fort Sill opened its Toys for Kids program Dec. 9, with a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Fort Sill Conference Center.
Col. Don King Jr., Fort Sill Garrison commander, expressed his appreciation to everyone who made the event happen calling it one of the most important things done for service members and their families here.
With Lawton Mayor Stan Booker to assist with the ribbon cutting, King said Lawton has done a lot for the installation and he was thankful for the participation from its citizens to brighten the holidays for Fort Sill service members.
King then introduced a special guest. Santa Claus again revealed the wonder of Christmas magic as he returned to Fort Sill in a twinkle of the eye to make his first public appearance here since the holiday tree lighting ceremony Dec. 3.
Shane Dunlevy, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (FMWR) chief of community recreation and Toys for Kids coordinator, said service members can get up to three toys for each child today through Dec. 13. Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Unit commanders review and approve requests to get items at Toys for Kids. This list of names is then sent to Dunlevy, said Darryle Jones, FMWR director.
The store is open to E-4 Soldiers and below with E-5s and above handled individually again through their unit command team. Dunlevy said E-5s and above have to go through the financial readiness specialists in Army Community Services to learn about setting up budgets. Once cleared from there, they are eligible to get toys, too.
Following the ribbon cutting, King invited everyone to browse through the selection of toys and the free gift wrapping service.
With two of his children in tow -- Andrew Jr., 3, and Easton, 2, -- Spc. Andrew Noble, a tuba player with the 77th Army Band, said he and his wife received wish lists from their four children of Christmas presents they would like to have. The Nobles other two children, Brenden, 10, and Colby, 8, were attending to their studies at Freedom Elementary School to retain their good graces with Santa.
"This program really helped us last year, and my wife sent me down here with the little ones today," said Spc. Noble, whose deeply resonating brass instrument will fill Lawton's McMahon Memorial Auditorium during the band's holiday concert Dec. 11, at 7 p.m. "For Soldiers with big families and little ones (children) this helps families make dreams come true."
Jennifer Williams, wife of Spc. Tommy Williams, 1st Battalion, 14th Field Artillery, was down shopping for toys for their five children. She called the Toys for Kids program a blessing that will provide a good Christmas for their three boys and two girls.
One can only imagine the amount of time needed to wrap those 15 presents, except in this program volunteers will be on hand each day to put the finishing touches on each gift.
Rika King, wife of the garrison commander, said Toys for Kids is a special program for her.
"Every installation we go to, if there's a Toys for Kids or Santa's Castle, it gets me into the spirit of Christmas to spend a couple days helping families shop for toys as well as gift wrapping the presents for them," she said.
People interested in donating unopened new toys should drop them off at the Fort Sill Conference Center, 6045 Sheridan Road on the basic combat training side of post. Dunlevy said donations will be accepted through Dec. 13, and added some brigades are holding their own events to add to the number of donated toys.
Dunlevy said the program is run completely by donations from sponsors, some of which have contributed to the program's success since it began.