Holiday Campaign provides gifts for local children

By Kevin Hotary - Staff Writer
East Haddam - posted Mon., Dec. 12, 2011
Kaitlin Besier's arms are full with donated toys stacked by Officer Craig Mansfield. Photos by Kevin Hotary.
Kaitlin Besier's arms are full with donated toys stacked by Officer Craig Mansfield. Photos by Kevin Hotary.

Kerry Quinlivan had no particular reason for visiting Nathan Hale Plaza with a collection of just-bought toys, other than a desire to help those less fortunate then herself. “I just thought it would be a nice thing to do. I thought it would be helpful,” she said, as she dropped off the toys at the Stuff-A-Cruiser Toy Drive sponsored by the East Haddam Resident Troopers and East Haddam Police Officers last Saturday, Dec. 10.

This year marked the sixth in which the troopers and officers, together with some Troop K Explorers, spent a Saturday filling cruiser after cruiser with donated toys. The gifts will then be distributed to children within the community through East Haddam Youth and Family Services, as part of its yearly Holiday Campaign.

“We have a little bit of everything,” said Officer Tom Griffith, noting that in addition to toys, some generous residents donated gift cards or cash.

“We usually end up with two and a half to three loads of toys,” added Officer Craig Mansfield. And these are not loads filling a typical police cruiser, but loads filling a much more spacious SUV.

Kaitlin Besier, Youth Activities Coordinator at EHYFS, organized this year’s Holiday Campaign, which allows local families who might not have the financial means to provide holiday gifts for their children. Parents provide basic information on what their children might like, and “we do our best to piece things together for them,” said Besier. Gifts for older children are purchased using the donated cash and gift cards. In some cases, donors “adopt” a family, purchasing specific gifts that they have requested.

“This year, we have quite a few adopted families,” said Besier. As of Saturday, about 45 families had contacted EHYFS to take part in the campaign - a number that “is on the low side for us,” said Besier. But, with the campaign concluding this Friday, Dec. 16 – all of the toys are distributed by Dec. 22 – Besier expects that some will wait until the last minute to contact EHYFS for assistance.
“And we’ll do what we can. It’s a push right to the end,” she said.

For more information on East Haddam Youth and Family Services and the Holiday Campaign, go to, or call the center at 860-873-3296.

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