Monday, July 24, 2017 This Week's Paper

The Amazing Toy Race

// Elves on a rampage for Toys for Tots

Teresa Berg has seen just about every bad thing an adult can do to a kid. A Pierce County Sheriff’s Detective Sergeant, she’s one of the department’s best at investigating crimes against children. This year has been hard on the soul, from the murders of Charlie and Braden Powell in Graham in January to the massacre of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut this month. That is why she and a dozen other deputies gathered Sunday morning at a warehouse on a carved-up section of ‘C’ Street downtown. They were there for the kids they can still help. And they were there to feel good about helping. That’s vital, not just for law enforcement officers, but for all of us distressed over the evil in the world. It’s how we stand our ground for good. “You can’t make that better,” Berg said of the children lost to violence. “But you can do something in honor of them.” To do that, deputies had invited their friends, kids and spouses to join them in The Amazing Toy Race for Toys for Tots, funded by a gift from the Puyallup Tribe of Indians to Crime Stoppers and Toys for Tots. Toys for Tots had $21,000 to spend on a late push in a season where giving’s down and need is up. Now, turning money into toys is not as easy as it would seem, said Pierce County Toys For Tots coordinator George Hight. Hight and his burly elves wrangle toys by the thousands in their downtown warehouse. They sort them out of corporate pallets and collection bins into boxes labeled by the age and sex of the child and the town where they’re bound. They work on forklift scale. They have no time for wandering toy aisles, no skill at picking out the best toy for tweener girls. So that $21,000 stumped them. Pierce County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Det. Ed Troyer gave it a quick think. Troyer has volunteered with Toys for Tots and Crime Stoppers forever, and this year added Charlie’s Dinosaur to the load. “He’s a genius,” Hight said. “Ed said, ‘We will get teams of ladies, with men to push the carts.

We will get $21,000 worth of quality toys purchased, sorted, boxed and ready to go out on Monday morning.” The teams would also stretch the money until it made a weird buzzing sound. At 10 a.m. Sunday, they were at the warehouse. There were your traditional elves, and a few Mrs. Clauses and a team from Allen Realtors. There were the leather-and-stiletto-clad Charlie’s Angels. And, because Ed invited us, my husband and I were there in our Santa hats and an inadequate compact car, representing Tacoma Weekly. Our motto: “Weekly Strong.” We had until 2 p.m., Troyer told the 21 teams, to spend the $1,000 on a gift card, get back, unload the loot, then sort and count it into boxes. We covered this town like spam, baby. No store was spared, and no store was stingy. Managers agreed to discounts. They pointed out good buys. They set up check-out lanes so we did not inconvenience other shoppers. After the shootings, it was a sad weekend, and this goofy stunt made them happy. It made Hight happy, too. “You guys and gals did some magnificent shopping out there,” he said. He had the numbers: 1,688 toys, at an average cost of $12 a toy. That was a nice bit of first aid for a campaign with donations running 20 percent below last year. Meanwhile the Department of Social and Health Services roster has 4,000 more kids on it. Hight figures the campaigns in Pierce, Kitsap and Snohomish counties need 30,000 to 40,000 more toys. Here, he has nothing for hundreds of girls ages 8 to 13. If you’d like to help fix that, call Hight at (253) 861-4525 for donation sites. There is still time to give, still time to help the kids we can, in honor of the ones we can’t. We’re a good-hearted town, and practical. We can do this.