Casper always steps up and takes care of their own, and we’re hopeful that tradition’s going to continue this year, because it’s probably the biggest year of need we’ve seen yet.

The Christmas season is officially upon us, and that means the return of the Stuff The Van Toy Drive – as Townsquare Media’s 104.7 KISS-FM, My Country 95.5, K2 Radio, Rock 96.7, 107.9 The River, and AM 1400, ESPN Radio join forces to make sure all Casper’s kids have a Merry Christmas.  Celebrating the 19th year, the mission of Stuff The Van continues to grow – as we work with our friends at the Wyoming Food For Thought Project to feed more kids over the holidays and beyond, through the Weekend Backpack Program.

Where: Walmart East [MAP]
When: December 12th -17th | 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM each day
How To Help: Visit us at Walmart East drive hours to drop off wish list items. See the wish list here. Financial donations will also be taken during the drive at any location of Hilltop National Bank, just tell them it’s for “Stuff The Van”.

“With Wyoming’s economy, this has obviously been a tough year for a lot of our neighbors, and our charities are on the front lines of that struggle.” said Townsquare Media’s Donovan Short, Stuff The Van’s annual host. “We’ve held this event through boom and bust – no matter what, Casper always steps up and takes care of their own, and we’re hopeful that tradition’s going to continue this year, because it’s probably the biggest year of need we’ve seen yet.”

Stuff The Van has grown and changed considerably over the years, from small beginnings.  “This actually began with a single spur of the moment event, after we got an emergency call from a local charity that had a lot more families than they had anticipated, right before Christmas Eve.”, said Short.  “We put the word out, hit the streets, and Casper stepped up and filled one of our radio vans in just a couple hours. We drove over and unloaded through the back door, right as the families were arriving through the front – seeing the relief and the gratitude in those parents’ faces, that moment when they knew their kids were going to have a Christmas – it made an impact on all of us. Everything kind of took off from there.”

Over 19 years, ‘hours’ grew to days, the radio ‘van’ has given way to large trucks, and a skeleton crew has turned into many volunteers – but the growth Stuff The Van is most proud of, is the amount of children that benefit from Casper’s generosity. The drive now benefits children in need via the Boys and Girls Club, Casper Housing Authority, Head Start, and the Child Development Center, in addition to the kids served through Wyoming Food For Thought.

Short says, “A few years back, our friends at the Wyoming Food For Thought Project partnered up with us, and helped us to increase our manpower, add charities, and increase the amount of kids – and really opened our eyes to Casper’s huge issue of childhood hunger, making a plan to reach some of these same kids long after the holidays. We were in the great position of having some extra funds at the end of the drive one year after the toys were taken care of, and were able to get a matching grant that allowed the start of the ‘Weekend Backpack Program’.”

After the Christmas needs are met, funds now go directly to buy food for hundreds of children in the Casper area that struggle with food insecurity, often when they get away from safety nets like free and reduced-cost breakfasts and lunches through the school system.  “Nights, weekends, holiday breaks are extra hard on these kids – they often don’t know where their next meal is coming from, and that’s where Wyoming Food For Thought and the backpacks come in,” says Short. “They identify these kids through the great staff in the school system that sees them daily, and send them home with easy-fix stuff that will keep them going.”

Wyoming Food For Thought Project’s Jamie Purcell says the need, as always, is a large one. “Last year, we were serving 465 kids, it’s currently at 700 – and this year, we anticipate at least 750 by Christmas. While that’s a lot of growth, the reality is, we need to be serving over 3,000 – it’s a huge problem in Casper. We’re thinking outside the box these days, asking churches and community groups to get involved, managing the logistics with the Natrona County School District, looking for ways to grow the program and feed all the kids that need it. It’s all about finding local solutions to a local problem, and helping our kids grow.”

If you can help – Stuff The Van will take your new and unwrapped toys, clothes and cash for kids of all ages, from December 12-17, 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM each day. One change this year – the entire event will take place live at Walmart East.

Check back here or listen live during Stuff The Van for updates on specific items needed as our charities finalize 2016’s wish lists, and on behalf of Casper’s kids – thanks in advance for almost two decades of generosity.

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