Our 17th Christmas of the annual "Stuff The Van Toy Drive" is on the way - as Casper's Townsquare Media stations (My Country 95-5, 107-9 The River, 104.7 KISS-FM, Rock 96.7, K2 Radio, and AM 1400, ESPN Radio) team up to help Casper kids in need.  Host Donovan Short, plus local volunteers, and the folks from the Wyoming Food For Thought Project will be live for three days each at both Casper Walmart locations - Monday, December 15 through Saturday, December 20 - from 7am until 7pm each day of the drive.

"We've been amazed with the generosity Casper has shown their own over the past 16 Christmases, and are hoping number 17 is one of our biggest yet collecting toys and clothes to put under the tree for families in need this year - and of course the excess cash that goes to feed these kids beyond the holiday with the Weekend Backpack Program at the Wyoming Food For Thought Project.", says Short.  "We're back to our familiar schedule from years past, with the first three days taking place on the West side, and the final three East, to make it convenient for people to stop by and give, wherever they live." What do they need?  "We're expecting that we'll be in a similar situation as years past - starting the week needing a little bit of everything for all age groups, and typically, as the drive goes on, we end up focusing in on gifts for the older kids, the teens and tweens that often get looked past when folks buy for the little ones.  We're working this year with some of the families with children served by the Casper Housing Authority, the Casper Boys and Girls Club, the Salvation Army, and the Child Development Center Of Natrona County - all of whom will be giving us lists and head counts of the kids they're serving this year right before we kick off.  We'll be live on all six radio stations throughout the week with the very latest updates as things come in - and if you're shopping on-site where we are, you're always welcome to stop by and ask our favorite question, 'what do the kids need'.  We've got volunteers that will head you in the right direction and give you some shopping ideas."

In addition to actual gifts - Stuff The Van takes much needed financial contributions, and once the Christmas toy and clothing needs are met, puts those excess funds to work feeding food-insecure Casper kids.  This year, the funds will be directed to the Weekend Backpack Program, administered through the Natrona County School District, with help from the Wyoming Food For Thought Project, Stuff The Van's organizational partner.

"Due to the extra generosity of the Casper community, we've often been in the fortunate position of having a little more than we need at the end of 'Stuff The Van'," says Short.  "We were looking for ways to reach these at-risk kids beyond just December 25 - and learned a few years ago that hunger is a huge children's issue here in Casper. There's tons of children who honestly don't know where their next meal is coming from. You get those kids away from things like free and reduced-cost breakfast and lunch programs at schools, and they're often going hungry at night, on weekends, on holidays and school breaks.  Part of what organizations like the Wyoming Food For Thought Project and the Weekend Backpack Program are doing is not only raising awareness and helping generate much-needed dollars, but reaching out and identifying these children at school - and discreetly sending them home with easy-to-prepare foods that will keep them going over time periods when they might be vulnerable to hunger, and make sure they can focus on the important stuff, like learning, and being kids."

Jamie Purcell, from the Wyoming Food For Thought Project says the need in Casper is bigger than you might imagine: "We are currently sustaining a program of 400 kids, but truly, we need to serve over 3,000. We're thinking outside the box now, asking churches and community groups to get involved in an organized manner. Managing the logisitcs with the Natrona County School District, we are looking at ways to grow the program so that all of the kids in need are fed. The extra money raised will be invested right here in Casper, building on the solid program and bringing resources together to help our kids grow."

While the toys, clothes, and funds can be dropped off to Stuff The Van volunteers at Walmart during the week of December 15 - a monetary donation can be dropped at any location of Hilltop National Bank from now through the end of the year, just make sure to tell them it's for "Stuff The Van".

Thanks in advance, from our charities, all of us at Townsquare Media, and all the children served through your generosity at Stuff The Van, and the Weekend Backpack Program - hope to see you at Walmart!

Update: We're beginning to get lists of specific needs from some of our partner charities, which will change as the drive goes on, so make sure to listen live for the very latest - however, if you need some advance shopping inspirations, here's some items we know we're in need of...

  • Learning toys
  • Books
  • Coats, hats, socks, underwear/panties, leggings, jeans, shirts, scarves and gloves for girls and boys - 0-2 year olds, 3-5 year olds, size 10-14, and men's/women's sizes up to 3x (for teens).
  • Toddler riding toys, cars, etc.
  • Anything "Spiderman"
  • Anything "Frozen" (TONS of requests for these, from all of our charities.)
  • Disney princess toys
  • Pokemon cards
  • Action figures for boys (wrestlers, Ninja Turtles, etc.)
  • Backpacks
  • Gift cards for teens
  • 18" girls bikes
  • 21" & 22" boys bikes
  • Bikes for toddlers
  • Makeup sets for teens
  • CD players & mp3 players for kids 12 and up
  • Arts & crafts/painting sets for 12 year olds, and up to 5 years old
  • Footballs, basketballs, and soccer balls.
  • Skateboards
  • Scooters
  • "Tech Deck" toys
  • Baby toys, 18 month olds
  • Books for 6-9 year-olds, plus first books and early readers for kids up to 5.
  • Washable colored marker sets
  • Barbies
  • Dolls
  • Nerf guns/toys
  • Interactive toys for small kids
  • Kinetic sand
  • Electronics for small kids
  • Legos and building toys
  • Army toys
  • Big block sets
  • Doll houses and furniture
  • Cars, Trucks, Matchbox/Hot Wheels
  • Ever After High, Monster High dolls
  • Board games
  • Teen hygiene kits, bath/body sets (Axe, etc.)
  • Coloring books
  • Crayons
  • Stocking-stuffer type small items (need LOTS of these)
  • Play-dough
  • Melissa and Doug wooden puzzles
  • Remote controlled cars, trucks, helicopters
  • Large fabric bins
  • Roller blades
  • Video games (or better yet, gift cards for places that carry them - such as GameStop, etc.)
  • Play kitchens with accessories
PS:  If you're looking to go big - we're also trying to help out some of the kids in public housing through Casper Housing Authority by adding a couple of nice swing sets and a couple of free-standing basketball hoops to a couple of their properties that don't really have outdoor places for the kids to play on-site.