Boy collects toys for needy children
By Katie Scarvey
|Big heart: Jeffrey Stanton looks over some of the toys collected for Jeffrey's Toy Closet, a charity started by the 10-year-old to give some Rowan kids a merrier Christmas.
When Jeffrey Stanton told his parents he wanted a toy closet this fall, they didn't understand right away what he was driving at.
Because Jeffrey is mildly autistic and known to think and speak very literally, Debbie and Mark Stanton thought he was simply asking for more space to store his many toys.
But he had in mind a bigger concept — Jeffrey's Toy Closet.
Jeffrey's plan was to give away the toys that he'd never opened and to collect more toys to give to other children for Christmas.
"I was just wanting to bring toys to other kids who didn't usually have toys for Christmas," he said.
"I want other kids to have a good Christmas, too."
On the Thursday before Christmas, Jeffrey, who is 10, delivered more than 300 toys to the Angel Tree at the Rockwell Public Library, sponsored by the Rockwell Woman's Group. Some of the toys also went to the Salvation Army's Angel Tree.
Jeffrey was inspired in part, his mother believes, by taking part last year in Stocks for Tots, a NASCAR-sponsored charity. Contributing toys for that, Debbie says, "left a lasting impression of joy in him."
His original intention was to take all the toys he'd never opened or played with and give them away. But that plan snowballed into much more. He began to use his birthday and chore money to buy toys.
He was even taking part of his lunch money and squirreling it away in a Dale Earnhardt lunchbox, to be used to purchase toys.
Jeffrey, who races a Bandit Bandolero at Lowe's Motor Speedway when the family's finances allow him to, had a goal of filling up his race trailer with toys.
That wasn't to be this year. Both Debbie and Mark had health issues that put them in the hospital this fall, and even Jeffrey was hospitalized because of an emergency appendectomy.
Although he wasn't able to fill the 30-foot trailer, Jeffrey still managed to collect hundreds of toys: remote control cars, a knitting machine, Nascar diecast cars, stuffed animals, pinball games, books, games.
Oh yes, and crayons, lots and lots of crayons.
When school started and WalMart had its big back-to school sales, Jeffrey emptied his savings and bought 40 boxes of crayons.
"At 10 cents apiece, he felt he had struck gold!" Debbie says.
When he wasn't racing, Jeff was combing clearance sales and flea markets, searching for toys.
His parents are proud.
"This is out of his heart," says Debbie, who believes that Jeffrey's toy project is a sign that his autism is improving.
"Autistic children have a hard time with change and with 'things' being gone," Debbie says. Jeffrey, however, had no problem letting go of his toys.
Evidently, Jeffrey's school, Rockwell Elementary, has also recognized his big heart — even before they knew about Jeffrey's Toy Closet.
Last month, the school gave Jeffrey the Roadrunner of the Month award for kindness and caring.
Jeffrey thinks it's because he's nice to other kids at school. He likes to open doors for other people; he also writes a newspaper, the Stanton Post, that he shares with his class.
Debbie says that her son is sometimes picked on because of his literalism and the quirks that are related to his autism.
"I just wish they could see how much he really cares for them all," she says.
Jeffrey does care.
Perhaps he's simply paying it forward.
In 1999, when Jeffrey was 2 years old, his father was severely injured at work, an injury that continues to affect him today.
"People at our church and total strangers started showing up with stuff for Jeffrey," Debbie says. In fact, the Post wrote a story about it, called "Angels on Earth," which appeared on Christmas Eve eight years ago.
Although he was still a toddler, Jeffrey says he remembers a wagon full of toys showing up on his doorstep.
"I still have that wagon," he says.
Debbie believes that the help their family got during that time has instilled in Jeffrey the desire to help others.
Other than his Toy Closet, Jeffrey's big passion is racing, and he likes to combine his two interests. A "Jeffrey's Toy Closet" logo will soon be emblazoned on the back of his racecar.
When Jeffrey thinks about kids opening a toy he collected, it makes him feel happy, he says.