First Friday street party also to feature live music by Garrett Smith, vendors, cold beer and The Elf
DAVID STONE | OUR TOWN TEMPLE
A downtown street party will help provide hundreds of toys, books and stuffed animals to Temple kids in need.
Sammy G’s fifth annual toy drive will be Friday, Dec. 2, on South 1st Street in front of Fire Base Brewing Company, and donations will go toward the Temple Police Department’s Blue Santa Project.
Blue Santa provides Christmas gifts for Temple children age 14 and under who may not otherwise receive a present.
“There’s a big need right here in our hometown,” said Sammy ‘G’ Gamino, who started the toy drive five years ago along with the King Solomon Lodge in Temple. “Together, we can bring smiles to children’s faces this Christmas.”
JD McBride, co-owner of Fire Base, said First Friday customers are encouraged to bring a new unwrapped toy or book to the block party.
“We’re going to sweeten the deal — bring in a new toy and we’ll take a buck off your first beer,” McBride said.
This is Fire Base’s third year to team with Sammy G and the Blue Santa program.
“This is growing by leaps and bounds,” Gamino said. “It’s only going to grow bigger every year.”
McBride said he hopes the drive and Blue Santa as a whole becomes a huge community event. It’s definitely getting there.
“Blue Santa has been around since 2012,” McBride said. “Our party is kind of the finish line. All the toys, books, stuffed animals and cash donations will be given to Blue Santa so they can wrap up the gifts.”
The Blue Santa Project has helped more than 3,000 local children have a merry Christmas. This year, 174 families and 433 kids are registered to be served by the toy drive.
The Temple-based Garrett Smith Band will be performing, and Sammy G will provide entertainment for the last hour of the block party. Several other events have been lined up and vendors will be selling Christmas gifts and other items.
“We are going to have a special guest — The Elf,” McBride said. “He will be joining us with the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle.”
The Elf is Rod Henry, president of the Temple Chamber of Commerce.
“This is something I’ve done for several years,” Henry said. “I started out reading holiday books to students in Terre Haute and at Tarver Elementary School on Temple’s west side.”
“About four years ago I started ringing the bell for the Salvation Army Red Kettle campaign. I have a heck of a lot of fun joking with everyone — taking photos with those who stop by, giving high fives and collecting contributions to the Salvation Army.”
“Yes, I dress as an elf — sometimes I have several layers of clothes on and still freeze,” he said. “It’s interesting how many people turn away from me or won’t make eye contact. That’s when I activate the singing hat. About 50 percent of the time that gets a positive reaction and a donation.”