MADISON, Wis.— Hundreds of parents picked up presents for their kids, from a toy drive that almost didn’t happen

Staff at Henderson Elementary School spent their entire Wednesday going up and down the stairs in front of the building. 

Up, down, up, down, up, down. 

They were loading gifts into families’ cars. Those gifts were donated by strangers, many from WPS Health Solutions. 

Every year, WPS has a toy drive in the office. But with nobody there in person this year, they planned to give out gift cards instead. 

Employee Megan Willauer said no way. She offered to organize the whole thing. 

Each child in need got to choose two presents they want. Some chose things like coats and gloves. Their preferences were passed on to Megan, who made an Amazon wishlist, and promoted it to her coworkers and the rest of the community. 

They had about 250 gifts in 2019. This year, 750 gifts were requested. That’s a huge spike in need this year, mostly because of the pandemic and all its financial stressors. 

“Like all communities, many are impacted by COVID,” said Henderson Elementary School Principal Ben Ketterer. “Whether it's employment, housing, whatever the challenge may be, we just have more need.” 

The repetition of going up those steps in front of the school represents just how generous others have been to these families. 

“It was very heartening to see… Anonymous people stepping in to bring some joy to the lives of students,” said Ketterer.