Santa’s checking his list. You should too. Is Toy Drive on your holiday shopping list?

Shopping with your children isn’t always a pleasant experience but for the Shook family, it’s something they enjoy. That’s because they are shopping with a purpose.

Kristi Hanks-Shook, senior patient care manager, orthopedics and sports medicine, said that her children, Gabrielle, 17, and William, 14, assist in finding the perfect gifts to donate for the Carle toy drive.

Knowing that gifts for pre-teens can be a challenge, Hanks-Shook appreciates their insight in helping to pick out something they hope will be on the “wish list” for an area child.

Hundreds of generous donors helped make sure Champaign County children hada gift to open on Christmas morning by dropping off unwrapped gifts and monetary donations December 13 at the all-day drive-thru at Carle Sports Medicine & Orthopedics, Windsor and First, Champaign. The yearly Salvation Army Toy Drive provides toys and gifts for Champaign County children 12 and younger.

Many working families have difficulty making meet need help during the Christmas season.

“Having a toy under the tree gives hope during a time of struggles. It can actually shift a family's perspective about their needs being met,” said the Salvation Army’s Robin Matthis.

She sees many families who are sad and struggling.

“This mom was in tears because she had nothing and didn’t know if she’d qualify for the program. By the end, knowing her kids could get toys, her heart was relieved. I’m so blessed that our community provides these gifts and support for families.”

Hanks-Shook said her family supports the toy drive because any of us could be in or know someone in the situation where kids would go without.

“Anyone with love in their heart and gifts to give can help easily and quickly,” she said. This year Hanks-Shook leads the team that will host the all-day toy drive-thru at the Carle Orthopedics and Sports Medicine.

Dropping off a toy takes about the same amount of time as grabbing a cup of coffee, and you don’t even have to get out of your car.

This year organizers expanded the drive-thru to include children’s new and gently used hats, coats and mittens to allow more people to be Connected Through Giving.

The generosity of employees and the community warms hearts and brings a smile to the kids’ faces said Hanks-Shook. Having participated for five years, she’s seen the drop-off and distribution of the toys and knows it makes a difference.  A strong need exists for gifts for older kids. The Salvation Army suggests headphones, gift cards, sweatshirts, and sports equipment.

Laura Wyncoop, patient services representative supervisor, orthopedics and sports medicine, has been helping with the toy drive for five years after she learned how many local children go without gifts.

Christmas is her favorite time of the year with festive decorations and time for family gatherings. Knowing not everyone has cause to celebrate really hit home for her.

“The giving season extends all month for me rather than one day. The spirit moves me and keeps me feeling love throughout the season,” Wyncoop said.

Through December 15, people dropped off new and unwrapped toys and gifts at several Carle locations.

Wyncoop said the boxes stationed around the Carle sites prompted conversations with parents and children.

“I overhear parents talking to their kids about the purpose of the toy drive and how they Salvation Army helps kids. It’s an awesome opportunity for them to appreciate what they have and share with other families less fortunate,” she said.