Toy requests are a hot topic during the Christmas season, so The Paris News reached out to local service organizations to learn what items top children’s wish lists.
Bicycles are by far the most-requested item every year.
“Bikes were a big one. Part of the independence of a child is going on two wheels. It’s that first freedom,” said John O’Donnell, former program coordinator the Toys for Tots program in Lamar County.
O’Donnell, a retired Marine Corps gunnery sergeant, served as coordinator for the local Toys of Tots program from 2013 to 2018. He stepped down this past year due to other commitments. But his six years of service with the Toys for Tots program gave him insight into what children ask for the most when it comes to Christmas.
In addition to bikes, which are requested by children of various ages, O’Donnell said younger girls often ask for baby dolls and Barbies.
Young kids want Paw Patrol and Disney toys.
As technology increased, older kids asked for drones and remote-control helicopters.
“The hard ones to buy for are 10- to 12-year-olds,” O’Donnell said.
Toys for Tots doesn’t ask for gifts for 13- to 18-year-olds, but often receives donations that are appropriate for that age group. In those instances, the items are given to youths directly or through other community programs. That’s because the Toys for Tots program adheres to the idea, “No child is left behind — a mantra that embodied the Marine Corps pledge, “Once a Marine, always a Marine. Never leave a Marine behind.”
O’Donnell reiterated, “Children are the future of the nation.”
Current coordinator Shawonna Rhoades has been with the organization for 10 years and does a lot of shopping for items that were requested but haven’t been donated. One of the hottest items requested is the American Girl Doll.
“Girls love babydolls,” Rhoades said, noting they are also asking for LOL and Barbies.
The boys are wanting Nerf guns and remote-control cars.
Older children are a group that hardly ever gets adopted, Rhoades said. The girls want makeup and art supplies. The boys want anything that is remote control.
A couple of the more uncommon requests this year include Bibles and clothes.
Christians in Action
Christians in Action founder Don Walker of Paris said his organization assists people throughout the year.
“Not just at Christmas. Hope needs to go year-round,” he said.
Since starting the organization in the early 1980s, Walker has collected good, used toys.
He said the residents at the Christians in Action Men’s Shelter cleans them up, make repairs when needed and puts them up until the holiday season.
Sometimes people donate new toys, as well.
“We don’t sell anything. We give everything away,” Walker noted.
Bicycles are always popular.
“That’s pretty well requested most of the time,” he said.
Bikes are not the only items available though.
“We have all kinds of toys,” Walker said.
With the donations the organization receives, he can provide watches, wallets and speakers to older children as well as socks, gloves and toboggans for all ages.
“At Christmastime, we give away (lap) blankets. We give a lot of those away,” he said.
Program coordinator Melissa Wickersham said the younger children really like coloring books, Crayons and markers.
Boys tend to want Hot Wheels cars, baseball bats and balls of any kind.
“Girls ask for your basic babydolls, makeup dolls and Jojo (hair) bows,” Wickersham said.
Teen girls like name brand items, such as Nike socks and Jeggings. They also welcome fingernail polish and anything from Bath and Body Works.
“For (older boys), it’s still balls — footballs, baseballs, soccer balls,” she said.
Hoodies and crazy socks make great gifts for girls and boys.
Salvation Army in Paris
Salvation Army Major Martha Higdon said 500 children were pre-registered for this year’s toy drive.
Bikes, LOL Surprise, headphones, jewelry, cologne and perfume were among the most wanted items. A couple of girls also asked for more unusual items — dinosaurs and farm sets, she said.
Glendra Gunishaw-Johnson serves as bookkeeper and office coordinator for the Salvation Army and said bicycles are always on the list of wanted items.
This year’s top requests by younger girls are Barbies and anything associated with the movie “Frozen,” while boys are asking for cars, remote-control toys and action figures.
For babies, parents are wanting clothes.
Gunishaw-Johnson said the Salvation Army exemplify its slogan, “Where We Do the Most Good.”
Choctaw County Youth Services
Choctaw County Youth Services “Angel Tree Program” provides new toys to 260-plus children each Christmas. Their most-requested items this year were as follows:
For babies and toddlers: Mickey Mouse, learning tablet, dinosaurs, learning toys and dolls.
For 6- to 12-year-olds: Nerf guns, LOL Surprise, makeup, lip gloss, remote control cars, arts and crafts; clothes, perfume, lotion and Baby Alive dolls.
For ages 13 and older: Perfume and cologne, bikes, Tablets, makeup, coats and clothes.
“With a lot of our teens, we do clothing and perfume/cologne sets since they are harder to buy for at times,” Support Service Director Crystal Alexander said.
She also noted, “We have wrappers who come in that volunteer to wrap presents for us before we send them out the door to the kids. We are dispersing our gifts this year on (December) 19th and 20th.”