Crooks couldn't spoil season

If the weekend theft of 1,000 toys meant for needy kids represents the worst of Wichita, what followed represents the best — a public outcry and, within hours, enough donations to replenish the supply of the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program in time for this year's distribution and to get a start on next year.

Even Gov. Mark Parkinson and first lady Stacy Parkinson helped out, donating $1,000 and encouraging others to give so kids wouldn't have to go without presents.

"Stacy and I grew up in Wichita; it's a wonderful community," the governor said Monday."...We encourage those in the community who are blessed this season to reach deep into their hearts and pocketbooks. It's not too late to make sure that every child in Kansas has a Merry Christmas."

Among the donors, Spirit AeroSystems employees contributed $15,000. Wichita businessman (and GOP congressional candidate) Wink Hartman gave $5,000, as well as a $5,000 reward to help catch the thieves.

Toys for Tots officials think the break-in occurred Saturday night or Sunday morning at the program's East Kellogg warehouse. As they made a mess, the burglars made a point to steal electronic toys, basketballs, footballs, makeup and other items intended for hard-to-buy-for teens and preteens, as well as some Fisher-Price toys for infants.

Sadly, this wasn't the first time this holiday season that burglars made off with kids' presents. Other Toys for Tots items donated to Parallax Program, a nonprofit alcohol and drug treatment agency, were stolen from a shed last month.

Toys for Tots will continue to accept gift donations through Friday in Marine Corps donation boxes at area Wal-Marts or at Davis Moore Automotive at 6205 E. Kellogg.

The community also can continue to help the Salvation Army with its "red kettle" campaign through Christmas Eve, and for the gift distribution that begins Thursday (316-263-2769). Donations are still being accepted for the Share the Season campaign, a partnership of the Salvation Army, the Wichita Community Foundation and The Eagle (call 316-264-4880 or visit the Web site sharetheseason.org).

An opportunity for seasonal giving of another kind starts Thursday, with the Battle of the Badges blood donation campaign for the Red Cross (316-268-0835 or 800-448-3543).

Charities say the bad economy has made this December one of unusually high demand and slow donations.

At least Monday's surge in donations to the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program means that holiday mission will be accomplished, despite the best efforts of some crook or crooks.

Score one for the spirit of the season.