Generous Donations Collected in 2021 NASA Christmas Toy Drives

From left: Misti Birdsong, Lance Corporal Luca and Marie Adams pose with a portion of the toys collected during the NASA Texas Toy Run. Lance Corporal Luca left the event with a box truck full of toys for the local Toys for Tots chapter.

When the 25 Hours of Thunderhill Presented by Hawk Performance was cancelled in 2020, NASA Texas Regional Director was looking for something else to focus his energy on. Motivated by NASA Southeast’s Santa’s Toy Run, which is held each December at Road Atlanta, Faules decided to put together the inaugural NASA Texas Toy Run held during his last event of the season.

Faules partnered with the local Toys for Tots office and the inaugural NASA Texas Toy Run took place at Eagle’s Canyon Raceway in Decatur, Texas. According to Faules, the 2021 event grew by 30 percent at a time of year that entries typically begin to taper off. NASA Texas timing and scoring official Jen Ledbetter even took up a collection at her work Christmas party and brought those toys to the event.

“I’m getting a little sentimental. I’m sitting here in my family home with a beautiful tree and lots of gifts under it. Those are my childhood memories from Christmas,” Faules said. “Some kids don’t get to experience that, so it’s really to cool to be able to be able to give underprivileged kids something to remember.”

NASA Texas members brought in an assortment of toys for boys and girls, including a retro Schwinn Stingray and a Coleman minibike. U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Luca who came to the event was treated to a ride in a racecar, and when the event was over, they filled a box truck to bring the toys back to the local chapter of Toys for Tots.

NASA Southeast’s Santa’s Toy Run is now in its 14th year. This year’s effort supplied toys for more than 415 children who otherwise would have gone without this Christmas. This year’s event pulled in more than 75 $20 gift cards for parents in the domestic violence shelters and for older kids and teenagers. In addition, more than $4,300 donated was divided among six different organizations.

Launched in 2008 by NASA Southeast member and former Honda Challenge driver Ron Rigdon, Santa’s Toy Run has collected toys for more than 7,000 children since it began, with contributions estimated to be in excess of $90,000.

This year’s beneficiaries include familiar names such as the Gateway Domestic Violence Center, Henry Haven House, Gwinnett Partners Against Domestic Violence and Fulton PADV. Santa’s Toy Run also donated to A Friends House group foster home and Hope children’s outreach program and the VFW National Home for Children. A new charity for 2021 was the Salvation Army Red Shield Services for homeless veterans with children.

“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. “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.”

Volunteers sort through toys collected during NASA Southeast’s Santa’s Toy Run in December at Road Atlanta.
Image courtesy of Ron Rigdon

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