LUBBOCK, Texas — On Nov. 11, 2019, 3-year-old Charli Jones unexpectedly passed away.
As a way to bring a bit of joy during that tough time, her family asked people to bring toys to the funeral that they could donate to Toys for Tots.
This was the start to Charli’s Tree, something that would become an annual tradition.
“I think we had 1,500 toys delivered to the service,” said Santos Moreno, owner of Lake Ridge Chapel & Memorial Designers. “The church was just covered in toys all the way across the stage, and it was very amazing.”
Moreno said they collect between 1,200 and 1,500 gifts every year.
“What better opportunity that we have to honor the child with gifts of toys to give to children that don’t receive gifts at Christmas,” Moreno said.
9-year-old Riggen Greer shares the same passion. Last year, he set up a hot chocolate stand and used the money he made to purchase toys for Charli’s Tree.
“I like to give back during the holidays so other children have toys too,” Greer said.
After buying more than $300 worth of toys last year, Greer wanted to make the hot chocolate stand at the corner of 112th St. and Flint Ave. a tradition.
“When it’s dark and all the lights are on, and you turn onto 114th and Flint, you can’t miss it,” said Kindra Satterfield, Greer’s mother. “We’re kind of obnoxious right here on the corner, so people will drive by and you see them looking and then some of them leave and go down and turn around and they will just pull up to the curb and want us to do curbside service, and we’re all about it.”
Moreno described Greer’s decision to donate toys to Charli’s Tree as “noble,” especially for a youngster.
“One of the great things to see out of a young person like Riggen is his willingness to give, his willingness to work at something and every bit of it coming to Charli’s tree,” Moreno said. “Here’s a child that probably wants all these gifts, but instead he’s willing to give them away for a worthy cause.”
Greer said his family had a big Christmas, so he hopes to give others that same experience through toys.
“When I get to buy toys for other kids, it makes me feel warm and happy that other kids get to have toys too,” Greer said.
Greer will officially set up shop on the corner of 112th St. and Flint Ave. from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. nightly starting Nov. 27. $3 or a toy donation will get you a warm and delicious cup of hot chocolate with all of the money earned going toward Charli’s Tree.
You can also place a gift under the tree at Lake Ridge Chapel & Memorial Designers (6025 82nd St.) in Charli’s honor. Donations will be accepted until Dec. 22. Moreno said all gifts under Charli’s Tree this year will be donated to local nonprofits.