Santa’s elves converged on Yowell Meadow Park Dec. 2.
The sounds of jingle bells reverberated through the park as the inaugural Jingle Bell Trot 5K helped raise funds and toys for the Culpeper Toy Chest.
The 5K is the brainchild of Crossfit Culpeper owner Mike Duff, who wanted to find to combine his love of Christmas with his passion for helping the community. Partnering with the Culpeper Toy Chest seemed a match made in the North Pole.
“We set out to help the community,” Duff said. “I love Christmas and any way we can help out with the community is the best. I reached out to Kristen and we’re here to help in any way we can. I’m excited.”
Duff said the 5K will be one of their two annual fundraisers, joining their workouts on Memorial Day. This year, more than 90 runners showed up, many with toys in hand, to brave the cold temperatures and warm children’s hearts.
“I honestly would have been happy with 30 or 40,” Duff said. “I’m shocked that we’re almost up to 100.”
The first Jingle Bell Trot raised $1,500, which was donated to the Culpeper Toy Chest.
“This is a great time, there are always kids that aren’t as fortunate as us that need something at Christmas time,” Duff said. “This is awesome to be able to help them out.”
The $1,500 donation, plus the box full of toys for boys and girls, has helped make this year the most successful in the 19 years of the Culpeper Toy Chest’s existence said coordinator Kristen Johnson.
“It’s amazing,” Johnson said. “That will help benefit the age groups that don’t receive a lot of the toys every year, which tends to be preteen and the teenagers. People tend to forget that after age 10, they’re still children. They still may not receive toys.”
The Culpeper Toy Chest, known previously as Culpeper Toys for Tots, became its own 501c3 in 2015 after the arrangement with the United Marine Corps Reserves to keep toys locally dissolved. For the first 16 years of the program, the Marine Corp Reserves agreed to keep toys collected in Culpeper in the community. After a chain in command, they decided to truck the toys to a warehouse in Quantico to be delivered in Northern Virginia.
Johnson wanted to ensure that Culpeper families were the ones who were receiving the generosity of their neighbors.
Toys for Tots is a wonderful campaign as well, but if you want to support local families here in Culpeper, you needed to do it with the Culpeper Toy Chest or other campaigns done here locally,” she said.
She has been overwhelmed but the outpouring of support the organization has received this season.
“This is the largest response ever in the 19 years,” Johnson said. “It’s because of the local support and the local business owners. “I can’t thank the Duff family enough. Crossfit is a wonderful place and they do a whole lot to help the Culpeper community and we really appreciate it. This will be a really successful campaign because of people like them.”
She said her and other volunteers will soon begin shopping for underprivileged children in the community who signed up for the program through Culpeper Human Services and the Culpeper Christmas Basket program.