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AOF Toys for Tots Drive Gives Hartford Children Christmas, Hope

Avon Old Farms School has done the fundraiser in collaboration with Hands on Hartford for about 20 years.

About $12,000 raised recently by the Avon Old Farms School community and several items collected in the all-boy private school's Toys for Tots drive will provide Christmas presents for more than 500 Hartford children and reach 200 families.

"Without your efforts, a lot of kids in Hartford would not have a Christmas this year," Emily Kaas, volunteer coordinator for Hands on Hartford, said at the school's morning meeting Tuesday.

She stood in front of piles of toys that stretched across the entire auditorium stage and into the wings. Of the money raised, Kaas said that $10,000 went toward purchasing more toys and the remaining amount will help fund an annual holiday party for the kids and their families.

First founded as Center City Church in 1969, the name changed to Hands on Hartford in 2008, Kaas said. The organization runs programs including the soup kitchen, food pantry, support of housing, a backpack program to provide children in need with food for the weekends, a senior meals program and a family-school connection program.

Avon Old Farms has done the fundraiser and drive for 30 years, 20 of which are in collaboration with Hands on Hartford. To date, the school has raised $300,000 for Toys for Tots.

"Not only do they receive presents...we bring hope to their lives," Avon Old Farms Headmaster Ken LaRocque said, addressing the student body.

Kaas said it means a lot to have Avon Old Farms as an ally to rely on for support.

"It means a lot because we can only go so far as providing basic needs," Kaas said. "It's so cool to see such dedication by young people in general."

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