Big Saturday event highlights Butler County toy drives coming to car show, schools and food pantries

Published: Saturday, December 07, 2019 @ 7:00 AM

The annual
The annual "Driven To Make A Difference" Christmas event and toy drive combines a love of cars with the passion to help needy children in the region. Now in its 7th year at Middletown's Horsepower Farm, the event Saturday Dec. 7 will be even bigger, say officials who are optimistic about collecting more holiday toys for low-income families in the area. The event is one of many area toy drives available in Butler County for those looking to make Christmas brighter for all children. (Provided Photo/Journal-News)

A parking lot meeting of car aficionados seven years ago led to one of Butler County’s most unusual Christmas toy drive events happening today ) in Middletown.

The popular “Driven To Make A Difference” event at the Horsepower Farm this year will feature a skydiving Santa Claus, snacks, a silent auction, local police K-9 dogs and classic cars along with plenty of donation boxes to fill for U.S. Marines’ Toys 4 Tots drive to help children of needy area families.

The free event today, which is at 2227 Trinity Drive and runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., is also a fund-raiser for the Blue Skies For The Good Guys and Gals Warrior Fund, a local project to help area wounded U.S. military veterans, said co-founder Jack Stump.

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The event’s toy drive – attendees are invited to bring unopened toys to donate - is just one of many available to residents in Butler County this holiday season.

Stump, who owns Stump Photography in the Greene County city of Xenia, said he and other car-lovers “wanted to do something to make sure every kid in the area has the best holiday possible,” by assuring there will be a donated toy or more on Christmas morning.

“All this started out with a parking lot meeting of a few business owners with a shared passion for cars and for doing good in the communities we serve,” he said.

Other Butler County communities and cities have various toy drives listed on their city websites making toy or money donations easy for those wanting to give.

And many local churches and schools – including Fairfield Schools and their annual “Ton Of Toys” drive for Butler County’s Children’s Services foster kids – are holding their own donated toy collections through Christmas with drop off boxes in their buildings.

Reach Out Lakota is one of Butler County’s largest food pantries and charitable organizations that during the Christmas season also gears up a toy drive designed to help needy families in West Chester and Liberty townships.

“Reach Out Lakota has been doing a Christmas toy give away since the inception of the agency,” said Scott Stephens, chief executive officer for Reach Out Lakota, which is located in Olde West Chester at 6561 Station Road in West Chester Township with a toy drop off at the same location.

Stephens said “families sign up for holiday toys and get to pick two new toys for each child in their household. This year we have over 800 children registered for our holiday toy distribution.”

The donated toys will be distributed to needy families on Dec. 14 at Journey Church, 7974 Barret Road where participating families are assigned specific shopping times to go select toys, he said.

“We get great support from the community and various people in area churches and businesses who purchase and donate toys for the event. Reach Out Lakota also purchases a large number of toys to make sure every child has at least two new toys,” said Stephens.

“Families then receive boxes of food from Reach Out Lakota so they have a delicious holiday meal,” he said.

To donate to Reach Out Lakota and help support the toy drive or holiday meal giveaway, go to the organization’s website at

Barb Wilson, spokeswoman for West Chester Township, said township workers are supporting Hope’s Closet this year and “accepting contributions throughout the season under our tree in the lobby of Township Hall at 9113 Cincinnati-Dayton Road.”

“We would welcome anyone in the community to join us and drop items off during regular business hours. Hope’s Closet supports foster families in Butler County. They accept new and gently used children’s clothing, toiletries, toys, etc,” said Wilson.