‘Nearer to Natalie’ toy drive returns for 3rd year

Photo of 2-year-old Natalie Petersen who died in a tragic accident in October, 2014, Photo courtesy of the Petersen family, St. George News

IVINS — After a tragic accident took the life of 2-year-old Natalie Petersen in 2014, her family chose to commemorate her life by organizing a neighborhood toy drive, both keeping Natalie’s memory alive and supporting Southern Utah’s USMC Toys for Tots program.

“Nearer to Natalie” will be held Friday from 6-8 p.m. at the Peterson Family home, 337 E. 1100 North in Ivins.

The festivities include a bounce house, a rock wall for climbing, hot dogs for neighborhood children along with a fire truck from Ivins-Santa Clara Fire/Rescue and a patrol car from Santa Clara-Ivins Police Department.

“This is the third year that the toy drive has taken place,” Bill Fortune said, “and it becomes bigger every year.”

The price for admission is a new, unwrapped toy that will be donated to “Toys for Tots of Southern Utah,” a program that delivers new toys to children in need shortly before Christmas.

The Nearer to Natalie toy drive this year falls on a special day for the Petersen family, Natalie was born on Nov. 11 and would have been 5 years old this year.

The annual toy drive is reminiscent of the outpouring of support the Peterson family received from the community when Natalie died in October 2014 – pink, pink and more pink. St. George News reported at the time:

Families throughout the Petersen’s neighborhood have placed pink ribbons and lights on their homes and in their yards to show support and sympathy. Hurst Ace Hardware in St. George donated more than 600 pink light bulbs to the effort, neighbor Ryan Morford said. Thursday night, neighbors gathered at Morford’s home, where the pink bulbs were distributed. The neighbors then returned to their own homes to replace their exterior light bulbs with pink lights in support of the Petersen family.

See more: Pink hug for Petersen family; community reaches out to family of 3-year-old …

Toys for Tots

Toys for Tots was founded in 1947 by Major Bill Hendricks with the United States Marine Corps Reserve. An estimated 5,000 toys were collected for children in Los Angeles, California that first year.

In 1948, the USMCR officially adopted the program and expanded it into a nationwide community action project. Marines at each reserve center throughout the country conduct toy collection and distribution campaigns in the communities surrounding the centers.

Southern Utah did not have a local chapter until retired Marine Gy. Sgt. Rick Massey, who had been on recruit duty in Washington County during his service, was appointed to coordinate the program in Washington County. Before Massey became the Toys for Tots foundation coordinator in Southern Utah, all donations collected in the area were sent to northern Utah. The number of toys collected grew from hundreds to thousands after Massey began coordinating the effort. And all toys collected locally are distributed to children within the county.

In 2015 the program delivered toys to more than 3,000 children in Washington County.

“The number of toys collected grew from hundreds to thousands,” retired Massey, said.

About 110 businesses throughout the community regularly support the Toys for Tots program by putting a box out at their businesses to collect toys, Massey said. People are encouraged to go to the stores, buy toys and fill those boxes.  Or, people can make monetary donations on the Toys for Tots website.

Event details

  • What: Third annual “Nearer to Natalie” toy drive to support Toys for Tots of Southern Utah.
  • When: Friday, Nov. 11, 2016 6-8 p.m.
  • Where: The Petersen family home located at 337 E. 1100 North, Ivins
  • Admission: Bring a new, unwrapped toy to be donated to Toys for Tots of Southern Utah.

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.


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