The heat index may be around the triple digits this month, but Wednesday morning was looking a lot like Christmas in July at Batson Children's Hospital.
Toy trucks and trains, baby dolls, building blocks and Barbies - these and more were unloaded by the truckload when Walmart brought a toy donation valued at about $20,000 to the front of the state's only children's hospital.
Ricky Sharpe, a driver for Walmart's Brookhaven distribution center, said year in and year out, the company and its people make Christmas happen at Batson Children's Hospital twice a year, in July and December, with a large shipment of donated toys from stores in the state. This shipment had 24 pallets of toys that came in a convoy of trucks. The toys will be delivered throughout the year.
Delivering Walmart's donation of toys for Batson Children's Hospital are, from left, volunteer Joseph Miller and Walmart employees Marty Stroud, Anthony Thompson, Davis Lowery, Darel Wallace, Rickey Oliver, Charlie Collins, Ricky Sharpe, Billy Tingle and Tony Miller.
“Walmart is our top fundraiser for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals every year,” said Jen Hospodor, UMMC manager of Children's Miracle Network Hospitals and community-based fundraising. “Every year, they do an outstanding job.”
One of Walmart founder Sam Walton's favorite causes, “Children's Miracle Network Hospitals is a big part of Walmart today,” said Marty Stroud, a manager in the truck maintenance facility at the Brookhaven distribution center.
The company has been a supporter of Children's Miracle Network Hospitals for 28 years, raising more than $750 million for pediatric hospitals.
The distribution center also helps through the year by hosting a 5K run at Copiah-Lincoln Community College and by donating cents for miles safely driven. As drivers at the Brookhaven distribution center log nearly 1 million miles driven per year, that adds up, Stroud said.
The estimated value of the toy donation is $20,000.
The involvement of Walmart associates makes the company's annual Children's Miracle Network Hospitals campaign, set for Aug. 29-Oct. 9, so successful, said Hospodor. “Many of them have had children or family members who have been treated at Batson Children's Hospital, so helping means something to them. It's personal.”
Stroud said getting Walmart employees and store leaders to participate isn't a hard sell. “Everyone wants to pitch in,” he said. “This is definitely a cause you can get behind.”
During the upcoming fund drive, shoppers can purchase virtual Children's Miracle Network balloons while checking out, Hospodor said, “and 100 percent of the funds come back home.”
Walmart employee Rickey Oliver and volunteer Joseph Miller pass down boxes, unload truckloads of donated toys.