For more than 20 years, the Guardian ad Litem Program, in partnership with Voices for Children, has hosted an annual Christmas toy drive so Guardian ad Litem volunteers are able to choose toys for the children that they are serving. It is hosting its toy drive through Friday, December 10.

For more than 20 years, the Guardian ad Litem Program, in partnership with Voices for Children, has hosted an annual Christmas toy drive so Guardian ad Litem volunteers are able to choose toys for the children that they are serving.

“More than 2,700 children are represented by the Guardian ad Litem Program currently and Santa would never want a child to not have a toy for Christmas,” said Community Outreach Coordinator for Guardian ad Litem Program 13th Circuit – Hillsborough Sharon Beningfield. “Over the years, there have been thousands of children who have received gifts through the generosity of our community. It takes a village to raise children and a whole community to keep the magic in Christmas.”

The Guardian ad Litem Program is very fortunate to have the support of Voices for Children, a local nonprofit that assists with bringing normalcy to children in foster care. It has wonderful donors who go above and beyond to make the holidays very special each and every year.

“This is just a story that motivates us to continue to reach out to the community for help in making the lives of the children we serve a little brighter and maybe feel a little more normal,” said Sheila DelCastillo, Guardian ad Litem trainer and toy drive coordinator. “One of my favorite memories from about seven years ago is of a 13-year-old boy that had asked for a pair of Nike tennis shoes for Christmas. We were able to find a donor to provide them. When he opened the box, the young man joyfully shouted, ‘Wow, a real pair of Nikes that weren’t someone else’s first.’ He had been in foster care for about three years and had not had a new pair of shoes in his 13 years that he could remember.”

The community is able to help with the toy drive by donating new gifts for all ages, like gift cards to stores, gift cards to fast-food restaurants, art and craft items, earbuds and chargers, watches and hoodies.

“While many people see gift cards as impersonal, they actually give a child a chance to make a choice of their own, maybe eat a meal they wouldn’t normally get to choose or join a friend for a snack after school when they might otherwise have to decline,” Beningfield said. “Those who would like to donate financially can do so through Voices for Children at www.vfcgal.org.”

If you would like to learn more about the Guardian ad Litem Program, you can visit its website at www.galtampa.org. It will be collecting gifts through Friday, December 10.

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Libby is a writer for The Osprey Observer/The Christian Voice. She started as an intern in 2009 and upon finishing her internship, she was asked to stay on as a permanent writer for both papers. Libby lives in Brandon with her two rescue dogs, Olive and Bogey.