WESTERLY — When Tim Thayer asked his son what he wanted for Christmas in 2016, the Chariho High School student answered the question with just three words, “a toy drive.”
Hoping to make his son’s wish come true, Tim said his family spoke with Higher Grounds owner Keith Frost and a single collection point was established at the Kingstown Road coffee shop. The response was great — but the true story comes in what happened next.
“We went from having the one spot to this becoming a communitywide effort,” Thayer said this week. “We now have collection boxes at more than a dozen locations and are able to sponsor four different adoption programs.”
Matthew’s Wish has grown by leaps and bounds over the past several years.
The nonprofit drive, which serves to provide for clients of the Rhode Island Center Assisting those in Need, currently has drop boxes at 15 locations in Richmond, Hopkinton, Charlestown and Coventry. Thayer said, based on early requests and donations, the organization is expecting to see considerable growth for the second straight year.
Since its inception, Matthew’s Wish has seen support from police, fire and ambulance personnel, town officials and business owners. In a six-hour collection held at the Richmond Elementary School Winter Vendor Fair late last month, members of the Carolina Fire Department were able to collect 183 toys and numerous cash donations already turned in to the nonprofit.
Charlestown police also stepped up in 2018 to provide a collection point at their station, an effort made to provide a more local alternative for those who live in the Charlestown area. Richmond and Hopkinton police have also hosted Stuff-A-Cruiser events in recent years, and both were previously drop points in 2017 when there were fewer options.
Charlestown Police Lt. Philip Gingerella Sr. said it was an easy choice to get involved.
“All the proceeds go towards helping those in need. As far as officers are concerned, that’s why we are here,” he said.
Thayer said Charlestown police, along with police and fire departments in both Hopkinton and Richmond, will also take part in the annual toy parade on Saturday, Dec. 8. The procession, led by police and fire, carries Matthew Thayer and all toy donations from Richmond to RI CAN at 805 Alton Carolina Road.
The event, which is scheduled to take place at 1:30 p.m., is open to the public and includes a celebration with cookies, cocoa and a visit from Santa at the conclusion of the parade.
Thayer said its more than he or Matthew could ever have hoped for.
“It’s heartwarming it really is,” he said. “The response we’ve gotten is more than we ever hoped for. It makes us very proud, and proud of the community we live in.”