Editor’s Note: This continues our Celebrate Community series on nonprofit organizations that improve North Okaloosa County residents’ quality of life.
CRESTVIEW — American Legion Post 75's push to increase awareness of the Kids for Toys program this past fall resulted in over $15,000 in toys, cash and gifts for Okaloosa foster children.
Event organizers presented the toys and an $11,000 check to the Families First Network of Lakeview foster care program.
"(The) run was phenomenal; it went really, really well. We were able to serve the kids in our local agency, but were able to help with some other counties as needed. In North Okaloosa alone, we served over 200 children, and so it certainly greatly benefited all of our kids," Alice Cheslock, FFN team manager in North Okaloosa and Walton County, said.
The nonprofit agency assists Northwest Florida families from Escambia to Walton counties.
"I'm just very grateful and thankful for the American Legion, because without them Christmas is always hard because we serve both kids in the home and kids that are in foster care. And they kind of led [the event] this year; and to see the community rally behind it … was a blessing for all of us," Cheslock said.
Juan Hernandez of Post 75, who served as road captain, said the post partnered with two other Crestview veterans groups, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5450 and Amvets Post 35, to organize the December motorcycle run.
This year, 197 motorcyclists participated in the event, compared to just 40 bikers in 2017. Donors purchased games, stuffed animals, and gift cards. Okaloosa County bus drivers provided a fleet of bicycles.
Area businesses provided raffle prizes. Winners received vehicle services at Precision Tune Auto Care, Crestview Tire & Wheel; and meals at Beef O' Brady's, Cracker Barrel, David's Catfish House, New York's Famous Pizza, Uncle Bill's, Emerald Isle Seafood Restaurant, and Wayne's Catfish House.
There were also gift cards from Tractor Supply Company, Winn-Dixie, It's Magic Day Spa and Salon and Precision Tactical. Two Harley Davidson jackets, a vest contributed by the VFW, and a custom motorcycle helmet from BDB Custom Motorcycle in Niceville were among prizes.
American Legion Post 75 is already accepting items for the 2018 Kids for Toys run.
Contact Post Commander Shelby Windham, 305-3635, for details.