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Riley’s Toy Drive still brightening Christmas for families who need help

By Mark Squibb/December 9, 2021

The eight annual Riley Mercer Memorial Toy Drive will be held on Friday, December 10, and despite the pandemic, the charity drive is going strong.

“Last year was virtual, and it ended up being our biggest year yet to date,” said Louise Mercer. “A lot of people will send me an e-mail transfer, and I in turn then go shopping.”

All told, the donations amounted to $13,000 in email transfers and gift cards.

“And that’s not counting the thousands upon thousands of toys that we received,” said Mercer.

Louise and husband Bernie have been hosting the toy drive in honor of their son, Riley, who passed in 2013 after a courageous battle with cancer. His sister Alex, 9, passed in 2002 after her own courageous battle with the same disease.

The Mercers will be collecting donations at the at the Salvation Army in Long Pond on December 10 from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., though donations will be accepted right up until Christmas Eve.

“But December 10 is our big day,” said Mercer. “That’s Riley’s anniversary. That’s mine and my husband’s Christmas Eve and Christmas Day all rolled into one. But after that, the gifts can be dropped off at the Salvation Army Church. But I will say, that on December 10, we would love to see as many people come out as possible, just so that we can say ‘Hi’ when they drop off their toy. It’s just nice to know that the community is behind us, and when they come out to show their support, it shows how much our events are appreciated and necessary in the community.”

Due to COVID regulations, the Friday night church service will be open only to a few, but the service will be livestreamed on the Salvation Army website. A virtual concert will also be hosted on December 10 and streamed on Facebook.

“I’ve been shopping every day since December 1, sometimes twice a day,” said Mercer, who has already received donations. “We never really have a goal in mind, we just want to make sure the tree is full, and the church is full, and that every kid’s wish gets met. And we’ve been able to do that every year so far. We’ve never run out of toys, we’ve always had a surplus of toys, whether big or small, but the most important thing is that we’ve always had enough toys for the children since we’ve started.”

To support the cause, you can donate to or drop off a toy in person.

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