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Community’s generosity ‘overwhelming’: Sheldon

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The organiser of the Calamity Annual Toy and Gift Drive is overwhelmed by the response to the 2021 campaign.

Thousands of gifts – big and small, from sporting items to board games, adorn the garage of Todd Sheldon’s Bolwarra Heights home.

But, he’s not complaining one bit.

The sixth edition of the popular charity fundraiser exceeded all expectations, especially in the middle of a global pandemic.

“The reaction [from the community] was great,” Mr Sheldon said.

“We’ve received a tonne of toys.

“I have to admit, we were a little surprised due to COVID-19.

“However, it’s been our goal to double [the goods] each year.

“We’re still awaiting a number of donations, which usually come in late.

“After that, we’ll take a well-earned break.”

Following a request from Reading Cinema in Maitland, in 2015, to assist those struggling during the festive season, Mr Sheldon, wife Penny and son Lachlan donated wrapped presents to a Wishing Tree.

From there, the idea of a yearly toy and gift drive was born.

“It just grows, and grows, and grows,” he said.

“Since the inaugural appeal, in 2016, the donations have steadily increased.

“The toys and gifts are then provided to local charities and organisations, including Carrie’s Place, the Farmers Run (2019) and, most recently, Got Your Back Sista (2020).

“But, our main focus has always been families affected by domestic violence and this will always be very important.

“In 2021, we’re broadening the assistance to include those affected by mental health.

“As well, we are keen to aid people who have stepped up to take care of children in the event mum and/or dad are unable to.”

The success of the 2021 Calamity Annual Toy and Gift Drive caps off a bittersweet period for Mr Sheldon.

While thrilled by the overall result, he suffered a personal tragedy along the way, which will shape the event moving forward.

“I had my mother [here] for almost three months, receiving end of life care,” he said.

“We then had to move her to hospice before her passing, on 28 October, which made things really tough.

“So, as of next year, the appeal will be known as the Nanny Susan Memorial Toy and Gift Drive in honour of my beloved mum.

“I’d just like to thank my family, Maitland state MP Jenny Aitchison, my boss Daniel Lewkovitz (CEO of Calamity Monitoring), East Maitland Rotary Club and the community for their wonderful support.”

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