From shopping to Santas, hundreds of volunteers share the Christmas spirit at ‘Coins for Kids’ events

WASHINGTON COUNTY— The overwhelming feeling of joy and Christmas spirit was undeniable this week when a legion of volunteers, fluffy-bearded Santas and dozens of elfish helpers came out to lend a hand with KONY Coins For Kids charity events and support families in need.

Hundreds of volunteers came to share the Christmas spirit Wednesday morning at the KONY “Coins For Kids” wrapping event at the Dixie Center St. George, Dec 19, 2018 | Photo by Andrew Pinckney, St. George News

“It really brought the spirit alive,” Diana Munford of Kanarraville told St. George News. “I didn’t have it until I came and wrapped and did something for somebody else and that’s what triggered it.” 

For the past couple of months in tiny, red boxes all over town, KONY Coins for Kids has been gathering donations to help families that may need a little extra help during the holidays. This year, the nonprofit organization was able to support 1,228 children and over 400 families by the generosity of Southern Utahns.

Read more: KONY’s Coins for Kids set to spread Christmas joy one smile at a time; seeks applicants and volunteers

“Every time I talk about it I get emotional,” said Carl Lamar, president of KONY Coins for Kids.

Lamar, who has been with the charity since its inception 29 years ago, said he was thrilled they were able to raise over $135,000 this year and adopt out another 460 kids to families that wanted to handle every step of shopping, wrapping and delivering themselves.

“Where else could you find people like this in the community?” Lamar said.

People turned out in droves Tuesday evening at the Bloomington Walmart beginning a three-day spectacle of volunteerism  by shopping, wrapping and delivering gifts all over Washington County.

Hundreds of volunteers tuned out to shop for KONY “Coins For Kids” at the Bloomington Walmart Tuesday evening, St. George, Dec 18, 2018 | Photo by Andrew Pinckney, St. George News

“The line was longer than I have ever seen before,” Lamar said, adding it wound past the garden center and through the parking lot past two semitractor-trailers. “I was just, ‘Wow, this is amazing.'”

Braving the cold with plenty of patience, some volunteers waited for hours just for the chance to help spend $110 per child and make even a few Christmas wishes come true.

Taking a break from their own Toys for Tots charity events, Marines of the Utah Dixie Detachment 1270 stepped in to volunteer with the logistics of moving gifts to the Dixie Center St. George following the 4 1/2-hour whirlwind shopping event. It  was 12th year the Marines were able to lend a welcome hand loading trucks.

At the wrapping event the following morning, the line stretched down the hallway of the Dixie Center St. George with volunteers ready to help even before the doors opened. Every table in the place was full by 8:30 and fully engulfed in a flurry of Christmas wrap, wrapping tape and joyous conversation.

L-R: LuAnn Skaro and Debbie Heger were among more than 100 Santas and dozens of helpers who volunteered to deliver gifts for KONY Coins for Kids charity event Thursday night, St. George, Utah, Dec. 20, 2018 | Photo by Andrew Pinckney, St. George News

While repairing a toy on his own before wrapping, KONY Coins for Kids chairman Brian Musso told St. George News the turnout at these events amazes him every year. 

“You know we ask for people to volunteer and we get four or five hundred (each day),” Musso said.

Musso, who has been volunteering with the program for the past 20 years, said the wrapping event has become a tradition for many people. Just that morning he had spoken to a woman that has showed up every Christmas for the past 29 years.

“It amazes me it has become a tradition for a lot of people and that’s the nice thing about it, is that we see the same people year after year, and they’re always ready to come and help. It just makes you feel really good.”

He said it is nearly impossible not to feel empathy for the children and families the charity assists, especially when you see some of the items that the children request on their wish lists. He was struck this year by one present he saw on the floor of the convention center waiting to get wrapped.

“I look at it this morning and I’m going why in the world is there a rug,” Musso said. After relenting to his curiosity and checking the family’s shopping list, he discovered it was a teenage girl who had just wanted a rug for her bedroom.

“You look at that and you think, ‘That’s pretty tough when you’re asking for a rug for your room for Christmas. That’s pretty tough.’ A simple thing that maybe we all take for granted is something that could make her Christmas dream come true.”

Over 100 Santas and dozens of helpers volunteered to deliver gifts for KONY Coins for Kids charity event Thursday night, St. George, Utah, Dec. 20, 2018 | Photo by Andrew Pinckney, St. George News

Musso said things like that are why he still loves to be a part of the charity after so many years.

Best friends LuAnn Skaro and Debbie Heger were among the first to arrive Thursday afternoon at the Dixie Center to pick up a truck load of plastic bags full of gifts all wrapped and ready to be placed under the tree.

“We’re so excited,” Heger said.

Though the pair had already wrapped and shopped a few times before, it was the first year they came to deliver for the cause and were able to attend all three events.

“This year we were talking and said, ‘Oh, it would kind of fun to do that third element,’” Skaro said.

She quickly roped her husband into being Santa. He wasn’t at all interested at first, but for the sake of his wife and friend, he really got into the fun once the night finally arrived.

Over 100 volunteers donned the red outfit and flowing white beard for deliveries, and while some filled out the costume better than others, a smile could be seen on every single face.

Harvey Hefley has been playing the role of Santa at events for the past 27 years, jokingly saying he started at the age of 10, but this year was the first time at KONY Coins for Kids.

“I have one question, ‘Have you been good all year?'” the most convincing jolly old elf asked St. George News.

Completely looking the part with his own natural white beard and just as humble as the original, when asked why he came with his grandson to help, he simply said, “I just wanted to.”

Lamar said that’s why the event really succeeds.

“Without the volunteers this would be impossible,” he said. “How can you pull off such a thing in three days – shopping, wrapping and delivering? It’s amazing.”

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.

Email: apinckney@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews | @andrewjpinckney

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • Comment December 21, 2018 at 8:12 pm

    2nd photo down of the larger photos: that’s not Jeremy Johnson in a santa outfit is it???

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