Cape Cops and Coast Guard collect
Santa Claus made a weekend appearance at the Cape Coral Wal-Mart on Del Prado Boulevard.
His sled was a Coast Guard boat parked near the main entrance of the store, filled with toys donated from selfless shoppers.
His reindeer was a Cape Coral Police Department patrol car, blue and red lights flashing nearby.
And Santa’s helpers were there, too, though they weren’t so little — five U.S. Coast Guard officers, including Cape Coral police officer Matt Squires, collected toys from shoppers Saturday and Sunday for the 3rd Annual Operation Fill up the Boat.
The toys filling the U.S. Coast Guard TPSB were purchased by Wal-Mart shoppers and donated to be given to families in need next week.
“Christmas giving spirit is recession-proof,” Squires said. “You can’t beat it. Between (Saturday) and (Sunday) we’ve definitely filled the boat.”
Approximately 750 toys were donated Saturday, and many more on Sunday, the largest and most expensive of which were10 bicycles, Squires said.
“Cape Coral is just filled with people who want to give,” he said. “A lot of people are really hurting this year. We’re just trying to help out.”
The toys will be given to children of families who were nominated by school resource officers and several other officers.
Viki Clare, a teacher who recently moved to Cape Coral, donated a My Little Pony toy and a Bionicle toy Sunday afternoon.
“We have a lot of needy families this year,” Clare said. “We’re just doing our part.”
Clare, who shopped with her 8-month-old son Paul, said the toys she bought were popular ones for boys and girls of elementary school age.
“I’m a school teacher so I know what the kids like,” she admitted.
Clare also donated canned goods to Dunkin’ Donuts before stopping at Wal-Mart, she said.
Squires said helping those in need gave him and his fellow Coast Guardsmen a satisfaction well worth the hours they spent collecting and distributing the toys.
“It’s the kids,” he said. “You gotta do something for the kids.”