BEEKMANTOWN — Helping others has become a tradition in the Estes family.
“For the three years that I was a team captain for Relay for Life, Emily was by my side,” Carol Estes said of her 11-year-old daughter. “She was my little assistant.”
But Carol wanted to give Emily a chance to have a project of her own that would make a positive impact on others.
“We don’t give kids the opportunity to help other kids as often as we should,” she said. “I said, ‘Come up with a way to change the world, even if you only change the world for five people.’”
A couple of days later, Emily returned to her mother with her idea. She wanted to have a party, but instead of guests bringing presents for her, they would bring toys to donate to the U.S Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program.
“I know a ton of kids aren’t going to get toys this year,” Emily said, and she figured her idea could help bring joy to at least some of them.
Carol called the local U.S. Marine Corps recruiting office to pitch the idea to Sgt. Robert Helmstetter.
“He was pretty amazed” that such a young girl had had such a big idea, she said.
Helmstetter will be attending the fundraiser, she said.
Even Emily seems to be in awe of the project.
“On TV, I’ve heard about people like this (who raise money for others), but they’re usually a year or two older,” she said.
Originally, Carol had planned to host a 20-person Toys for Tots party at her home in Beekmantown, but as the effort progressed, she realized she was going to need a bigger venue. And in just three days, Carol was able to secure one: the Blue Room of the Rainbow Wedding and Banquet Hall in Altona. A friend recommended she give that establishment a call after she was turned down by three other venues because they were booked.
“After I told her (owner Jane Sample) what it was for, she said it was for such a good cause that she wasn’t going to charge me anything for the room,” she said.
After Carol thanked her and said all she had to do now was find someone to play music for the children, Sample asked her son, Brannion Sample, a professional disc jockey, if he would donate his time.
“He was more than willing to do so, with no other information other than his mom saying it was for a good cause,” Carol said.
While Carol was taking care of the “grownup details,” Emily was busy making fliers to advertise the event. She is also posting a daily inspirational thought on the event’s newly created Facebook page: Teens for the Marines Toys for Tots.
“The real test is if we can pull this off in two weeks,” Carol said.
But so far, things have been coming together nicely.
Carol’s employer, AAA Northway in Plattsburgh, has donated movie passes, North Bowl Lanes in Plattsburgh gave bowling passes, and Punkie’s Shear Perfection in Plattsburgh contributed a gift certificate. These items will be given as door prizes.
There’s lots to think about when planning an event for middle-schoolers, Carol said, such as chaperones and finding a system to sign kids in and out to ensure their safety.
But she is in contact with Beekmantown Middle School and is hammering out the details.
Emily has invited everyone in her sixth-grade class, about 110 students.
“I know the majority of them, so I’m really excited,” she said.
Other young people may attend as well.
If the event is a success, Carol wants to keep it going each year, even after Emily graduates from high school. Then, her mom said, her younger siblings, Jacob, 8, and Amanda, 4, can take over.
“We’re going to see how big it can get,” she said.
Not only will the fundraiser bring a smile to the faces of many children this Christmas, it’s a fun activity, Emily said.
“I feel it’s a great way to spend a day, doing stuff that will help other people.”
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The Toys for Tots holiday dance will be held 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, at Rainbow Wedding and Banquet Hall, 47 Woods Falls Road, Altona.
All children between the ages of 11 and 14 are welcome.
Attendees must bring one unwrapped toy as admission.
To keep up with fundraiser updates, "like" Teens for the Marines Toys for Tots on Facebook.
For more information, email Carol at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 569-4582.