“100, 101, 102…,” murmurs Rebekah Thomas as she rummages through bags and boxes of toy trucks, kitchenware, and warm blankets.
“I’ve got 48 toys over here,” Max Salling calls out from behind his pile of gifts on the other side of the room.
“Wonderful!” Thomas replies, as she adds the number to her tally.
Thomas and Salling are attorneys at the Legal Aid Society of Orange County. This holiday season, they organized a toy drive for the benefit of the Orangewood Foundation, a non-profit that helps foster youth transition into independent adults.
“Most of the time you see kids and you don’t know their story,” says Thomas. “So often, foster youth are overlooked, kind of like out of sight out of mind. We wanted this group of young people to know that we see and hear their needs.”
Thomas and Salling posted flyers throughout the Legal Aid office and invited family members, neighbors, and friends to participate. Though toys for children of all ages were graciously welcomed, a specific plea was made for gifts for the older teens.
“Sometimes the older kids are left out so we wanted to make sure we made a greater effort to include them in our toy drive,” explains Salling. The Orangewood Foundation provides a specific holiday wish list for their older teens – personal items, household items, and electronic equipment – which will help the teens prepare for the transition from the foster care system to adulthood.
“When I was a teacher, I saw a lot of my kids in foster care,” adds Thomas. “And when they age out, many of them became homeless. Knowing that these kids will receive items that will help them on their path to independence warms my heart.”
Having collected 175 toys, Thomas and Salling plan to organize a toy drive every year to help make the holiday season a little brighter for those who have less.