Will Denning, 7, came to his parents this holiday season with an idea that took them by surprise.
The Dennings were on their way home from Bible study around Thanksgiving, and Will talked about how thankful he was for everything in his life. Later that evening, the first-grader told his mother he wanted to collect Christmas toys for kids less fortunate than himself. Will said the idea just popped into his head.
“I didn’t know where to go with it,” Michelle Denning said.
Before his parents figured out how to respond, Will had already started making a list of all the places he would leave boxes for people to drop off toys.
“I told him I would drive him around and help him get the boxes, but I wasn’t going to do it for him,” Michelle said. “He had to ask the business owners if he could put the boxes there.”
Will placed his boxes at Carroll Pharmacy, Anna’s Gourmet Banana Nut Bread, Centenary United Methodist Church, Lucas, Denning & Ellerbe law firm, his Cub Scout Pack 77 Christmas party, and the Johnston County Bar Association Christmas party.
Initially, Will talked about sending toys overseas to places he had seen on the news. However, his parents convinced him to think locally. They decided to deliver the toys to the Salvation Army and Harbor, a nonprofit that helps victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Will collected a total of 110 toys.
“I think it’s amazing!” Will said. “One 7-year-old can collect 110 toys for other kids.”
“The thing that impressed me so much, in seeing some of the great toys donated, not once did he say he wanted any of them,” Michelle added.
She said only once did he comment on a Lego toy she could tell he really liked.
“He said, ‘This is really going to bring a smile on the kid’s face that gets this one,’ ” Michelle recalled. “It was an amazing experience for me to watch him do this and see him learn from it.”
Will enjoyed his toy drive so much that he wants to make it an annual tradition.
“I want to make other kids happy again,” he said.