SPREADING CHEERPublished 7:16pm Thursday, December 5, 2013
Toy collection efforts were a success
A large group representing different local agencies joined Pike County Sheriff Russell Thomas at the Pike County Courthouse Thursday to celebrate the success of Operation Toy Drop in Pike County.
Sheriffs from across the Wiregrass participated in the statewide toy donation drive to benefit Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham.
The Pike County Sheriff’s Department participated in Operation Toy Drop for the first time since in was organized two years ago.
“I knew that we could count on the generosity of the people of Pike County to do their part in making this Christmas special for the patients at Children’s of Alabama,” Thomas said. “Pike County raised $5,000 to purchase gifts for these children. This donation from Pike County is made in memory of little EBJ.
“Her dad, Troy Johnson, is one of our deputies. When you work together as closely as we do at the sheriff’s department, you become like family. EBJ was like family to all of us.”
Thomas said that he could not begin to imagine what it was like to go through what EBJ’s family had to experience.
“Through this donation of toys to Operation Toy Drop and donations from across the state, 500 young patients and their siblings will get to shop at the Sugar Plum Shop for Christmas presents,” Thomas said. “There is no better reason and no better season to bring a smile to the face of a child and put joy in their hearts.
“We want these children to know that there are those who care for them and are praying for them and their families.”
The patients at Children’s of Alabama or their parents have an opportunity to go Christmas shopping at the Sugar Plum Shop and choose five toys along with board games and books. They may also select a gift for each of the patient’s siblings.
“This is a wonderful thing for the parents because many of them don’t leave the hospital long enough to go shopping,” said Marla Johnson, EBJ’s mom. “And, there are parents who never leave their child’s bedside but these children still wake up with toys in their bed.”
EB Johnson was in ICU on Christmas Day 2009 and Santa Claus came to her there.
“EB was taken off the ventilator that day and that was the best Christmas present we could have ever received,” her mom said.
Thomas asked the Johnsons to shop for the Christmas toys that Pike County has so generously made possible for the patients at Children’s of Alabama this Christmas.
Marla and Colton Johnson did the honors.
Colton was only six years old when, as EB’s brother, he got to shop for a toy for himself.
He doesn’t remember much about that shopping experience other than the Sugar Plum Shop was “crowded.” But, he and his mom will long remember this shopping experience at Wal-Mart.
“Everyone was so helpful,” Marla Johnson said. “They let us go up and down the aisles filling carts with all kinds of toys. I had a good idea of the kinds of toys the children would like and be able to enjoy. Colton and I picked out toys for boys and girls of all ages. We were so honored to do this … in memory of EB. We know what it’s like to be there.”
The entire county was deeply saddened by Erin Brynn Johnson death on April 22, 2011. She was four year old.
Thomas expressed appreciation to all of those who donated to Operation Toy Drop.
“Your generosity will mean so much to so many,” he said. “Thank you all.”