Over 1,000 children were signed up to receive coats and toys this year
PASO ROBLES — Over 1,000 children received toys and coats on Saturday, Dec. 9, during the 29th annual Day of Giving at the Paso Robles Event Center.
Chair and Day of Giving Coordinator Amanda Bean told Paso Robles Press that this year called more families into needing their services at the Toy Bank of Greater Paso Robles.
The Day of Giving is a free event organized each year by the Toy Bank of Greater Paso Robles and joined by Coats for Kids with additional help from the community. Over 1,000 children and about 500 families were signed up for the event this year. Bean noted that many families signed up for Day of Giving for the first time this year.
“We have a lot of families that have never come here before,” said Bean. “It’s a lot of first-year families because it’s harder this year, which we are happy they found us.”
The Toy Bank provides toys, games, playground balls, stuffed animals, books, and arts and crafts at the Day of Giving. They serve North County families with children in Paso Robles, San Miguel, Shandon, Bradley, and Heritage Ranch. Everything is donated by event sponsors and the community or purchased with money donated by residents and businesses.
This year, the Day of Giving was assisted by the Grizzly Youth Academy. Located in San Luis Obispo, academy serves as a transformative leadership academy for youth facing academic and social challenges. Operating 24/7, the academy empowers cadets, who have struggled in traditional schooling, to overcome obstacles and cultivate essential life skills. The holistic approach emphasizes the overall development of each individual, aiming to produce well-rounded graduates ready for the workforce, higher education, vocational training, or military service.
Addressing social and emotional needs, the academy creates personal growth opportunities, fostering leadership, physical fitness, self-discipline, and interpersonal skills. Through collaboration with parents and mentors, cadets apply newfound skills to excel in academics, work, and social interactions, fostering a sense of pride and achievable goals.
Current cadets are looking forward to graduation this Friday. Two of those cadets spoke to Paso Robles Press/Atascadero News about their experience at the academy.
“I love it so far. When I first got here, I was like, what did I get myself into, but then, after a few weeks, it got easier for me,” Bryan Gomez said. “I love the program; they teach us all these life skills and giving back to the community, and I think that is a big thing everyone should do.”
Following gradutation, Gomez is looking forward to spending time with family before heading to college and then the Army. He says the academy has taught him to prepare for a job outside of the academy and the Army to build a stable life.
In regards to his duties on Saturday, he said, “The old me would say, why am I going to [serve] the community … now being at Grizzly, they taught us that not everything has to be rewarded.”
He adds, “Just being here helping out puts a smile on my face.”
Another cadet, Tatyana Baccelli said the academy has impacted her life in a big way.
“I came in very headstrong,” she said. “From the beginning, I was able to accomplish a lot and gain a lot of opportunities that I hadn’t [had] in a long time because I kind of gave up on myself before coming to Grizzly.”
Baccelli explained that she was a senior with freshman credits coming into the academy. Now she will be graduating with honors. After graduation, she is looking forward to a semester of college before heading to enlist in the Army.
Growing up, Baccelli said she went to many toy drives, so being able to help at one meant a lot to her.
“It warms my heart, and I also appreciate the service community,” she said. “The reward is that you are helping people … I plan on keeping up with that after I graduate Grizzly.”
Coats for Kids founder Barbie Butz said that this was one of the best years the nonprofit has seen, from quality of coats received to volunteers.
“I really am thrilled this year because three rotary clubs in North County all participated in this project. The volunteers financially fund some of the purchase of new quotes and physically help,” said Butz.
Coats for Kids has been helping keep families warm for 36 years. Their mission has always been to distribute warm items such as coats, jackets, sweaters, and sweatshirts directly to North County families, not just kids, in need.
“I love watching the parents coming in and are so excited to be able to get clothes for themselves and their kids,” said Atascadero Mayor Heather Moreno, who has been volunteering for Coats for Kids since it was located in the Armory.
While donations were down for the toy bank, Bean says they prepare for such years and that “The need [for toys] was big this year.”
The Toy Bank accepts donations year-round. People can donate online at prtoybank.org or send a check payable to Toy Bank of Greater Paso Robles, P.O. Box 2801, Paso Robles. For more information, visit prtoybank.org.
Find more information on Coats for Kids here coatsforkidsslocounty.org.
Feature Image: Grizzly Youth Academy Cadet Tatyana Baccelli helped distribute toys along with fellow cadet Alyssa Porraz at the Day of Giving event in Paso Robles. Photo by Camille DeVaul