CARTERVILLE — More than 400 children will have a brighter Christmas thanks to the efforts of The Poshard Foundation and its donors Richard Clark of Tri-State Business Equipment in Harrisburg, Ameren Illinois and Blue Cross Blue Shield. The foundation is distributing toys to social service agencies throughout Southern Illinois.

Clark cannot bear to think of a child going back to school after Christmas break with nothing – no gifts or tales of Christmas cheer. He understands what that is like because he was on a charity list for Christmas presents as a child.

Clark found a way to help through his annual Christmas party. He and a friend began hosting an annual Christmas party about 15 years ago. The event grew over the years, and Clark decided to ask guests to bring an unwrapped toy for a child.

“A lot of parents bring nice gifts, so that other children can have a nice Christmas,” Clark said.

He said there are many lists children can get on to receive Christmas gifts, but the children the Poshard Foundations helps are not on any of those lists.

“These kids won’t have anything, if not for this. That makes us very proud,” Clark said.

Clark collected 1,200 toys this year at his party, including seven bicycles and 24 Axe gift sets.

“This year is just completely incredible. We stopped counting at 1,150 items, and they’re nice toys,” Clark said.

He said they had gifts for all ages, but gave a little extra attention to gifts for older boys. They outdid themselves, ending up with lots of items for older boys. But there were items for all ages.

There were tables filled with toys, games, coats, diapers, bears, puzzles, books, watches, sleepers, back packs, scarves, hats, gloves, jewelry, sports equipment and art supplies.

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Sherry Williams of The Amy Schulz Child Advocacy Center in Mount Vernon selected toys for young victims of sexual abuse. She had 10 boys and girls from infancy through age 12 on her list, including one infant who was a victim of sexual abuse.

The Amy Center serves seven counties through its Mount Vernon office and one satellite office in Washington County.

“If we can help one child each day, it is worth it,” Williams said.

The Amy Center provides forensic interviews, counseling and advocacy for victims, and an education program on body boundaries for children in preschool through high school.

“All the children have been abused, abandoned or neglected. They are also children who are not receiving gifts from other sources,” Jo Poshard, director of The Poshard Foundation, said. “When the caseworkers leave today, they will have them covered.”

Along with the Clark, Ameren Illinois provided a grant for purchasing toys and Blue Cross Blue Shield provided toys. Individual donors dropped off checks and toys. Poshard said they make the foundation’s job a little easier.

Volunteer Phyllis McCowen does the shopping and makes cookies for the event. Mary Nehring of Pinckneyville donated 250 hand-crocheted hats. Janet Demeo of Oakdale donated gloves. Churches in Vienna made quilts and Christmas mugs.

Poshard said the foundation started working with radio personality Pat Benton and Pat’s Kids in 1999. After Benton’s retirement, they moved to the current model of toy distribution three or four years ago.

“People like to be involved. Southern Illinoisans are very generous. We appreciate that,” Poshard said.

For more information or to donate, visit www.poshardfoundation.org.

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