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By Renee Sloan
SOUTHPORT—Trucks, planes, cars and trains took center stage as Communities In Schools of Brunswick County hosted Big Toy Day at the Cape Fear Regional Jetport last Saturday.
About 1,400 people attended the fifth annual Big Toy Day. More than 70 exhibitors participated, including the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office, the Oak Island Police Department, Yaupon Beach Fire Department, Oak Island Fire and Rescue and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Members of Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 939 offered free airplane rides to 119 children. Other activities included face painting, coloring, bouncy houses and corn hole. Vendors also offered pony and camel rides and refreshments.
Big Toy Day began five years ago as a family event and fundraiser for Brunswick County Communities In Schools (CIS).
Mark Koval, Brunswick County CIS resource director, says CIS spends about $700 on the event, which usually brings in between $6,000 and $7,000 in profit.
“We don’t spend a lot of money to put this thing on,” he said. “We get a lot of in-kind donations from out in the community.”
Money raised helps support the organization and its various programs, including the after-school, parenting education, dropout prevention, peer court and teen court programs. It also helps CIS recruit and train volunteers and provides academic scholarships to seniors.
Koval says while the event does function as a fundraiser, its primary purpose is to offer the community a family-friendly event that is also educational.
“We wanted their minds to be stimulated early on about what they could do with their lives and motivate them to stay in school,” he said. “We don’t want to see them drop out; we want to see them graduate. That’s what this is all about.”
Big Toy Day has shown significant growth since its first year when only 550 people attended. The number of exhibitors has also increased.
“It’s not just the parents and kids who look forward to the event,” Koval said. “The exhibitors do, too.”
Koval says everyone involved enjoys the reactions they get from the kids. One admissions volunteer told him once kids got a glimpse of the activities and vendors waiting for them, they couldn’t wait to get out of the car.
“Just seeing the kids’ faces, that’s what makes us excited about this event,” he said.
Renee Sloan is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 910-754-6890, or email her at email@example.com.