LaGRANGE — In just about every way imaginable, it was sweet.
A group of youngsters representing Sweetland Amphitheatre who won second place in the Sweet Land of Liberty Parade earlier this week donated their $200 in prize money to Toys for Tots on Thursday — and were treated to ice cream.
Parents brought nearly 20 children to the Medicine Cabinet on Vernon Street to meet Bernard Bledsoe, a Toys for Tots coordinator who served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1959 to 1965.
As the children enjoyed their ice cream cones, they gathered around Bledsoe as he explained to them what Toys for Tots does, and why it’s meaningful to hand their hard-earned prize money to a good cause.
“By giving this money, you’re helping to make sure other kids who can’t afford Christmas get gifts,” said Bledsoe, dressed in his veterans uniform.
Pearson Knight, 13, son of Anna and Zack Knight of LaGrange, said he didn’t mind giving up his winnings because he knew it would benefit something worthwhile.
“It’s a good cause,” he said as he ate sprinkle-coated ice cream in a waffle cone. “The kids that can’t afford presents at Christmas will get to have toys and stuff. I had heard of it (Toys for Tots) before this, but I didn’t really know what it was.”
Another wide-eyed youngster, Jackson Malone, 10, who was either full of enthusiasm, sugar, or both, said he was excited to help other kids.
“I feel that it’s really fun,” he said. “It’ll help other kids know what LaGrange is about. I feel like the little kids will really like the toys they’ll get.”
The idea to donate the money came from the costumes the kids wore in the parade, said Anna Knight, Pearson Knight’s mother.
“It all started because we all wanted to give the money to a charity in LaGrange,” she said. “Since the kids were dressed as servicemen in the parade, we decided to give it to the West Georgia Veterans Council.”
Bledsoe, who is currently chairman of the council, had a better idea, though. Since the council mainly uses funds to put down brick pavers at the veteran’s memorial near the courthouse, he suggested donating the money to Toys for Tots. He was impressed with the generosity of the kids.
“I think it’s terrific, first, that they wanted to be in the parade, and then also that they wanted to do something for veterans,” Bledsoe said. “They’re great kids, they have great parents, and we’re fortunate to have them in LaGrange where doing something like this is important. People care about other people in LaGrange.”
The $200 donation will be used later this year to buy gifts to be distributed by Toys for Tots at Christmas time.
The following youngsters were part of the Sweetland Amphitheatre float team:
Jack Baker, Nina Francis Baker, Lily Daniel, Lila Knight, Pearson Knight, Davis Knight, Jackson Malone, Hampton Malone, Amelia Rockwell, Max Zachry, Martin Zachry, Gus Stewart, Wilson Stewart, Nina Wyman, Zachry Mattox, Finn Eiland, Olivia Sato, Daniels Durand, Dottie Durand, Morgan Mills White, Addie Eiland, Ella Eiland, Sadie Kelly and Eve Kelly.
Tyler H. Jones is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2155.