Toy drive returns to its roots

Community celebration upended by pandemic to once again highlight Kapco’s Kids2Kids Christmas giving extravaganza in Grafton

SURROUNDED BY DONATED gifts, volunteers organized toys at Kapco’s headquarters in Grafton during last year’s Kids2Kids drive. Press file photo
Ozaukee Press staff

When the pandemic hit in 2020, Kapco in Grafton altered its Kids2Kids Christmas campaign, replacing the in-person celebration it had held for years with a drive-through light show.

This year, the annual toy drive is returning to its roots, company officials said last week.

“It’s such a blessing to bring back people and have the community celebration,” Gretchen Jameson, chief learning officer for the Kacmarcik Center for Human Performance, said.

Instead of the drive-through light show, Kapco has created a walk-through light display at the Kacmarcik Center, 885 Badger Cir., that area residents can enjoy beginning this weekend.

Kapco will host a Celebration of Giving from 3 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11, that includes the walk-through light display, ice skating, music, arts and crafts and other holiday activities.

First responders will drop off the toys they have collected at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

“Kids and families can come in and see on display the tens of thousands of toys collected, and Santa will be there,” Jameson said. “There will be elves packing the gifts. People can literally climb into the experience.

“While it might be smaller (than the drive-through light show) in terms of footprint, this makes me think more of a Hallmark Christmas movie with a small-town feeling. People can rub shoulders as they walk around. It will be much more intimate than the drive-through.”

The light display will be open until 8 p.m. Sunday, although the other events will close at 5 p.m.

The light display will also be open from 5 to 8 p.m. from Dec. 14 to 23.

There is no fee to go through the display, although those attending are urged to donate a toy to the Kids2Kids Christmas drive.

That’s a change from last year, when people made monetary donations that were used to buy toys requested by children in need, Jameson said.

“We really wanted to get back to people bringing in an unwrapped toy,” she said.

Toys have been collected at businesses throughout southeastern Wisconsin since mid-November for the Kids2Kids drive, which has collected more than 300,000 toys during its 17 years, Jameson said.

“That’s incredible,” she said. “Here’s what’s cool about it — every one of those was a child giving to a child.”

Kapco’s corps of elves “literally hunt through these thousands of toys that are donated to find as perfect a match to a child’s wish list as they can,” Jameson added.

The toys are distributed to children through agencies such as the Salvation Army, Big Brothers and Sisters, Ozaukee Family Sharing, One Hope Foster and others.

The Kids2Kids Christmas campaign began in 2006, when radio personality Jonathan Green asked Kapco CEO Jim Kacmarcik to sponsor a toy drive for children in need, Jameson said.

“If you know Jim, he rarely leaves things where they are,” she said.

Kacmarcik took the opportunity and ran with it, creating a regional force to make Christmas a happy occasion for children, she said.

While the Kids2Kids Christmas effort has collected about 20,000 toys annually in recent years, Kapco spokesman Ross Boettcher and Jameson said that they hope to top that number this year.

“Maybe we’ll plant our flag and shoot for 25,000,” Boettcher said. “We’re coming out of Covid, getting back to our roots. Let’s go for it.”

But, Jameson said, the whole idea behind Kids2Kids isn’t necessarily about the number of toys collected.

“It’s about helping young children and our families to learn in new ways what it means to be truly generous,” she said. “The toys are a beautiful mechanism for that.”

She noted that years ago, a group of children came to the Day of Giving with modest toys they could afford to give.

“Jim Kacmarcik will tell that as the most meaningful story of what Kids2Kids is all about,” she said. “At the end of the day, it’s about making a meaningful sustainable impact on young people’s lives.”


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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