In the five years Ted Hayes has organized the Christmas Light Parade and Toy Drive, it’s never been more needed than now, he said.
“Social media’s just been really hard on people. You have little kids watching on Facebook,” he said.
“There’s just so much hate out there, I think it’s really great that our community is coming together, and they’re doing something nice for each other, showing the community that it doesn’t always have to be about hate.”
Participants in the annual parade are asked to bring a new, unwrapped toy or children’s book, and so is everyone who gathers to watch.
Story continues below gallery
During the parade, which starts at 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, spectators can hand off the toys and books to participants. After the parade is over, volunteers stack them inside the Brown County Salvation Army for distribution to local children.
Hayes said he began receiving calls this year in June from people who wanted to participate in this year’s parade, and the calls keep coming.
A few things are new this year.
In previous years, the parade only collected toys.
This year, Hayes has partnered with the Brown County Literacy Coalition, and those who wish can also bring new children’s books to be collected and distributed by the coalition.
After the parade, the literacy coalition will also host a holiday story time for children at the Salvation Army Church on South Jefferson Street, complete with cookies and hot chocolate.
There are also more opportunities to donate this year.
Hayes reserved the Village Green Pavilion for Nov. 26 and 27, and will be there again Dec. 2 and 3 to collect toys.
Hot beverages will be served, and visitors to the Pavilion also can take tags from an Angel Tree to sponsor a child for Christmas.
Hayes said he is considering handing the parade off to a local organization with more resources next year. “I think I’ve brought it as far as I can personally bring this thing,” he said.
From 400 toys donated in the first year, to around 2,500 last year, he’s proud of all the toy drive has done.
“There’s a lot of kids who woke up with a Christmas the past four years that wouldn’t have woken up to a good Christmas,” he said. “And it’s all due to the generosity of all the people who got involved in it, and all the thank-yous belong to them.”
Hayes wants to remind people to bring their children and grandchildren to the parade to see good examples of humanity.
“It’s important for them to see people giving,” he said.
The parade starts at 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3 in downtown Nashville.
To participate in the Christmas Light Parade, visit browncounty.com/lightparade or contact Ted Hayes at 812-720-0322.
All entries must be lit up in some manner. Participants are asked to bring at least one new, unwrapped toy or children’s book as their entry fee.