RICHMOND — Members in Chariho's three communities came together Saturday for the third annual Matthew's Wish Community Toy Parade, the culmination of a month-long effort to raise funding for toys and Christmas gifts for those in need.

The event proved successful, with hundreds of toys and gifts being given to the Rhode Island Center Assisting those in Need — but that doesn't mean those who participated in the program in 2018 are ready to call it quits just yet.

Collection boxes will remain in place at nine locations in the community through the Christmas holiday and members of the Richmond Police Department will conduct a Stuff-A-Cruiser program on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Ocean State Job Lot, 12 Stilson Road, in an effort to continue supporting those in need throughout the region.

"Like Matthew, we recognize the positive effect a new toy can have on a child who may be less fortunate due to the domestic situations, financial hardships, and other challenges," said Richmond Police Chief Elwood M. Johnson Jr. "This is a collective effort to spread a little joy and hope in the lives of children, and let them know that the police department and members of the community care about them."

All proceeds from the collection with benefit RICAN clients through the Mattew's Wish campaign. The Stuff-A-Cruiser and drop-box collections are each seeking new, unwrapped toys, games and gifts.

The campaign, now in its third year, was started by Chariho High student Matthew Thayer in 2016. His father, Tim Thayer, said it began when he was asked what he wanted for Christmas and Matthew Thayer, who has Down Syndrome, responded with just three words: "A toy drive."

From there, it has grown into a community-wide event that now provides hundreds of gifts annually. On Saturday, the organization provided it's largest donation to date, several carloads of toys and other gifts, at the conclusion of the program's annual toy parade from Chariho Plaza in Richmond to the RICAN offices on Alton Carolina Road.

The parade, which received a special escort from local police, fire and ambulance services and a special visit from Santa Claus, helped bring a smile to Matthew's face as well as to that of friends and neighbors, Thayer said.

"Everyone at Matthew's Wish would like to extend a huge heartfelt thank you to all of our community members who came out in support of Matthew," he wrote in a Facebook post. "Because of all of you, so many children and their families will have a Christmas this year. We are proud to be a part of such a caring, loving community."

Thayer said those still interested in making donations may do so at the Richmond police collection, as well as at participating businesses who still have drop boxes including the following: Washington Trust Bank; Richmond Town Hall; Woodmansee Insurance; Chariho Eye Care; Algiere Chiropractic; Courthouse Center for the Arts; Higher Grounds Community Coffeehouse; Independence Transition Academy Cafe (URI); and Kenyon Industries.

For more information on Matthew's Wish, visit the organization's Facebook page at facebook.com/matthewswishri/ or website at matthewswishri.com.

jvallee@thewesterlysun.com

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