By Anna Kate Mackle
Each December, the musicians partner with the Toys for Tots Foundation to collect toys, games, books, stuffed animals and sports equipment at TFO concerts. This year, for the first time, they also will team up with the St. Pete YMCA’s Neighbor to Neighbor program, which provides a Christmas tree, ornaments, toys, a holiday meal and YMCA memberships and after-school sports activities to families in need. The musicians have generously offered to provide live music for the families and volunteers at the toy distribution event.
The Florida Orchestra musicians are committed to finding ways to give back to their community, and they feel strongly that it is important to help make it possible for every family to celebrate the holidays.
“When this time of year comes around, starting with Thanksgiving, it reminds me how fortunate I am, and that thankfulness to God should be every day,” bassist John DiMura said. “So many children are not as fortunate, and Toys for Tots gives us an opportunity for giving back the joy we have had.”
Violist Alison Heydt agreed: “Receiving a toy can give a child hope and joy, especially if that child has been having a tough time. Food, clothing, shelter — these are all necessary to life, but so are hope and joy. Music feeds the soul, too, so I guess that’s why this particular cause is close to our hearts as musicians.”
An annual tradition since 2015, the musicians’ toy drive has been tremendously successful, due to the generosity of not only musicians and their families, but TFO staff, Board and audience members as well, who collectively have donated over 1,000 toys.
The 2017 toy drive will run from December 1-17. Collection boxes will be available at TFO offices and lobbies of performance venues in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater for Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 (Dec. 1-3), Sounds of Celebration Coffee (Dec. 6 & 7) and Holiday Pops (Dec. 15-17) concerts.
For more on the Toys for Tots organization, click here.