|Matthew Newcomer poses with a some of the toys he has collected for charity this season. Courtesy photo. |
A visitor to Matthew Newcomer’s Loudoun County home would probably think he was one very lucky 11-year-old. The toys are everywhere, hundreds of them, overflowing from boxes and filling closets, lining a basement set up with an elaborate model train track. His father, Joseph, estimates that there are 500 or 600 in all, but there’s just one catch—none of them are for Matthew.
“Service to the community is more important than service to self,” Matthew explained. “That’s why I’m doing it.”
What Matthew is doing is a veritable Christmas SWAT operation, scouring the area for toys that he collects year round and then gives to the charity Toys for Tots when the holidays arrive.
Matthew started taking up his collection in 2006, when he was only 4 years old.
“I really don’t know why I did it,” he said. “I think it was just when I was young, talking with friends and realizing some of them didn’t have toys. I thought, ‘I can get toys for them.’”
The efforts began modestly enough: a small bag of donations carried to the Toys for Toys collection location by a tiny Matthew.
“There was a friend of his who didn’t have much,” recalled Matthew’s father, Joseph Newcomer. “At the same time, we were teaching him to give back, and the combination kind of hit.”
This year, however, Matthew has taken decisive ownership of his efforts. With his parents’ blessing, Matthew opened the Newcomer home to the public beginning in late October, allowing visitors to enjoy the miniature train city—complete with 23 buildings and 6 train tracks—he’s built with his father in exchange for donating one toy.
“There is that degree of trust you must have with the community to do something like this,” Diane Newcomer, Matthew’s mother, said. “The reason why we’re doing this is for a greater cause, so you kind of have to put those concerns aside with opening your home up.”
The train attraction, open Saturdays and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. through Dec. 14, has begun to pay some serious dividends.
“The first couple of weekends were slow,” said Joseph Newcomer. “It was hard to get the word out.
We had probably on average 15 people per weekend. Now it’s five or six families. One family came, husband wife, four kids, and each brought something. That was six toys for one visit.”
Beyond the confines of his miniature city, Matthew continues to wage a multi-pronged campaign to secure donations; he reaches out to family members, uses his own allowance money—matched by his father—to buy toys, and has successfully petitioned the Loudoun County Public Schools system, which his mother works for, to jump on board.
Matthew proposed that LCPS’s administrative building institute a jeans day every Friday, with those employees contributing $5 or donating an item to Toys for Tots being allowed to participate.
“We got more than $600 in donations, a full box of toys, and a fourth of another,” said Matthew Newcomer. “It was awesome.”
Matthew isn’t the only one who thinks that his initiative is awesome.
“Five hundred toys makes a difference in many children’s lives,” said Frank Holtz, Toys for Tots coordinator for Loudoun County. On Dec. 15 the Loudoun County Marine Corps League, of which Holtz is a member, will present Matthew with the Commander’s Award for his efforts on behalf of underprivileged children. “There certainly are broader lessons. It is important for young people like Matthew to realize that there are less fortunate children in the world and be involved in making a difference.”
On Dec. 6, Matthew will drop off his donations at the Leesburg Volunteer Fire Company.
“It’s somewhat of a moving event,” said Kenny Fox, a lieutenant with Loudoun County Fire and Rescue. “Kids in general look forward to receiving gifts, and to have somebody who looks the other way, who’s thinking not of himself but of others, is great.”
Be the first to post a comment!