By Josette Keelor
WOODSTOCK -- Standing in a truck bed full of free toys would be any child's dream come true, but even as 5-year-old Kennedi Mellott considered the toys with longing, she was willing to give up each one.
She and her mom bought all the gifts to give to others, and Kennedi funded the project by selling away portions of her own birthday present.
Her mother, Kerri Mellott of Woodstock, said Kennedi used a gift card from her Nov. 24 birthday to buy a rubber band balloon kit, but instead of making crafts for herself or her loved ones, she bartered them for donations.
"She said she wanted to make bracelets to raise money for the kids who don't have toys for Christmas," her mother said. They posted their idea on Facebook, and Mellott said family friends and coworkers bought many of the bracelets.
Kennedi asked $1 a bracelet, but some people gave a lot more, and her mother said within two weeks they raised $75.
"We have puzzles, we have dolls, art kits, dress up stuff," Mellott said. "She wanted to purchase for a girl. Of course, that's what she's into."
Kennedi said some of her favorite gifts are a yellow plush Shimmering Ponies stuffed animal and a Mini Bottles jewelry-making kit. Also in the hoard are a Dora the Explorer table and chair set, Barbie dolls, Super Glitter Sand Art, Mini Machines trucks and a set of furry black and gray winter boots.
On Friday morning, the mother and daughter carried items they purchased at area dollar stores into the Woodstock Garage, where Mellott's father John Bushong works with members of the Woodstock Rotary Club.
The gifts will be evenly divided between a local branch of the national Toys for Tots and the Woodstock Rotary Club's Christmas Basket Project, which started in 1913, according to Blake Phillips, co-chairman of the project committee.
The Woodstock Rotary took over organizing the program in 1933, and Phillips said, "We consider this our 101st delivery. Right now we have 40 families on the list."
He said the club planned to provide new coats acquired through the Rotary Club International's Project Warmth and through the Woodstock committee's local drive, Coats for Kids. They also planned to deliver canned goods donated to them or purchased in bulk.
"Each family will get two or three big boxes of food," he said.
The Rotary Club's Stuff the Truck campaign for Christmas Eve delivery will include a visit from Santa on a fire truck from the Woodstock Fire Department to a mobile home park and the major apartment complexes in town where he will hand out gifts to children from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday.
Stuff the Truck accepts non-perishable food items and unwrapped toys.
Mellott said her daughter's decision to help other children surprised her, but Kennedy said she did it "because I wanted to make bracelets" and "because it was fun."
Mellott and Kennedi's father Geoff Mellott used to adopt children during the Christmas season, and they've donated to Toys for Tots.
"So it's something that we do instill in her," she said.
Last year Kennedi brought gifts of Suncatchers art to area nursing home residents. Mellott said while her daughter accepted help making bracelets this year, Kennedi made about two thirds of them herself.
On Friday morning, as she hugged some of her favorite purchases before adding them to the pile of presents, Kennedi said she hopes to do this all again next year. She still has a few bracelets left over to give next year's program a head start, but according to her mom they might not last long. Just that morning, the little girl sold a few more.
"We just made $100," Mellott said. "An even 100."
For more information about the Woodstock Rotary Club's Christmas Basket Project or its Stuff the Truck fundraiser for Christmas Eve deliveries, call Blake Phillips at 540-459-3727.
Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org