NASA Southeast has been holding “Santa’s Toy Run” for 13 years during its December events at Road Atlanta. The region used to charge $10 for gate fee, and then donate the proceeds to local charities. Now, rather than paying a gate fee, NASA Southeast members bring a toy or gift card valued at $20 or more to be donated to children who otherwise would not have anything for Christmas.
NASA Southeast member Ron Rigdon, who has organized the program from the beginning, said this year’s toy run brought in 45 $20 gift cards, plus a $3,000 donation that was divided among four domestic violence shelters: Gateway Domestic Violence Center, Henry Haven House, Gwinnett PADV, Fulton PADV.
Rigdon and his wife Michele said 2020 proceeds also went to A Friend’s House foster home, Camp Boggy Creek, a facility for medically challenged children, Hopewell, a children’s outreach program and a Salvation Army homeless shelter.
“These charities really count on us now because they know that they don’t have to go out and solicit for toys, and that takes away from their other areas like clothing and food. For some organizations, we are their only source for toys at Christmas,” Rigdon said in 2019. “A lot of these women leave their situation with just the clothes on their back, them and the kids. But you know, they had the courage to leave that situation and seek professional help. Many of the kids in group foster homes need our help, especially at Christmas.”
NASA Texas also put a “Santa’s Toy Run” together for its last event at Eagle’s Canyon Raceway in Decatur, Texas, just northwest of Dallas. NASA Texas Regional Director Will Faules started by calling the local Toys for Tots office and asked them how to proceed. The answer was a simple: Collect the toys and bring them to the Toys for Tots office in Austin.
“I think it’s really cool how generous NASA folks are. I figured maybe half the people would remember to actually bring a toy,” Faules said. “I think nearly everybody brought one and some people brought multiple toys. So, you get a few hundred people together, and it helped a lot of less fortunate kids for Christmas, which I think is really cool. It’s really exciting.”
Originally from the NASA NorCal Region, Faules is familiar with the generosity of the NASA family. The 25 Hours of Thunderhill Presented by Hawk Performance has had a Toys for Tots charity donation program attached to it since it was a 12-hour event. With this year’s event cancelled, Faules was eager to do something similar in Texas at his December event, which collected hundreds of toys for the Austin Toys for Tots chapter.
“Honestly, I’d love to find a way to make every event have some sort of philanthropic endeavor by calling the local track manager and saying, what do you like, locally?” Faules said. “Whether it’s a homeless shelter or the SPCA or something, with our customer base, having the type of people that are willing to spend several hundred, if not thousands of dollars a weekend on a hobby, I think it’s well worth the effort to have some sort of program to help other people at each of these.”