Farragut Rotary helping Santa

Rotary Club of Farragut members are helping Santa this year with a new service project to collect toys for children who are East Tennessee Children’s Hospital patients during the holidays.

“We are getting toy donations, and those donations are being sent to my home. We’re sorting by ages and then we’re going to be delivering those to the hospital in mid-December,” said Rotarian Scot Bertini, one of the RCF service team members.

“Our plan is we really want to rally the community and hopefully overwhelm the hospital with gifts for children,” RCF service team co-chairwoman Sonya Ford said. “We’re taking collections until Dec. 11. Then the following week we will be delivering the gifts to the hospital.

“We’re trying to get as many toys as we possibly can to deliver to the hospital and hopefully make some children happy over the holidays,” Bertini said. “We are very excited about this project and believe our club can truly help ETCH bring some much needed smiles to their patients this holiday season.”

“Especially during times like they are right now, it is a blessing beyond words,” said Cheryl Allmon, ETCH director of Volunteer Services and Programs. “I don’t know what this year’s going to bring for us.

“I know we’re seeing a lot of families have had a big impact with COVID-19, and there’s been a lot of financial pain going on right now,” she added. “So to have a group like the Rotary step up a month-and-a-half before Christmas and say ‘we’re going to help’ is just tremendous and such as a blessing.

“We want to make sure our families are taken care of. We want to make sure that we can create as special a Christmas as possible and to also take that worry away from the family.”

RCF members are taking their project further by making Santa bags with help from their student-member Interact Club at Hardin Valley Academy, who are sewing together bags for the project.

“A lot of our members are planning on sewing the bags, so it’s kind of like Santa’s little Christmas bag that they will be using to stuff the gifts for the children,” RCF service team co-chairwoman Sonya Ford said, inviting the public to also make bags.

She noted the size of the Christmas bag for the ETCH toy drive is 24 inches in width and 36 inches in length.

The hospital has 152 beds, but it also has children in its rehabilitation center or home health centers, Allmon noted.

Toys can be ordered on Amazon, and sent to 1227 Amber Glades Lane, Knoxville, TN 37922. Bertini asks contributors label the package “ETCH” so he knows it is designated for the hospital.

For more information, call Bertini at 865-898-4421 or e-mail him at scottbetini@gmail.com. Call Ford at 865-323-3780, e-mail to sonya.ford@citizensbank24.com or call ETCH’s Volunteer Department at 865-541-8136.

Along with children’s toys, Allmon said infant toys and gift items for teenagers are sorely needed. Donors are asked not to send stuffed toys or used books.

Ford, who co-chairs RCF’s service team with Brian Elton, said team members “really have been wracking our brains in the service group in Farragut Rotary of other projects that we could get done this year.

“We really thought there was no better way than to focus on children that are spending their holidays, unfortunately, in the hospital,” she added. “Scott Bertini, one of our newest members at Farragut Rotary, actually came up with the concept.

“He spent a Christmas holiday in the hospital with his son and he saw the joy that it brought on his son’s face when he was blessed with gifts when they were there Christmas day.”

“(The project) was something kind of near and dear to my heart,” Bertini said. “What the hospital tried to do for all the children who have to be in the hospital on Christmas Day … to give all the children toys,” he said. “It was just very, very meaningful to my family … seeing my son open up that big package of toys brought a lot of joy to him, and it meant a lot to my family at that time.”

“I’m very excited. I think that we all have very giving hearts, and we’re just happy to be doing what we can for the children,” Ford said. “I think anyone who’s a parent who has, at some point, been to the hospital with their child — and if it had to be around the holidays when you had to be in the hospital — it just brings joy to the faces of children knowing that they got a little gift; so we’re very excited about it.”