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It's More Than A Toy
By Vittoria Allen

Each year, as the preparations begin for Toys for Joy, our focus remains on the motto: “It’s more than a toy.” Children like Carmen and Renoah remind us of just that.

This year, 7-year-old Carmen, and 10-year-old Renoah, made a decision that most kids their age wouldn't consider. They donated their birthday presents to Toys for Joy.

Vivian, Carmen’s mom, beams with pride over her daughter’s generous spirit. Each year, she has so many friends and family members at her birthday party that she will end up with more toys than she knows what to do with. Vivian told Carmen that she wouldn’t be able to keep all those toys and suggested that she donate them. So, after her birthday in October, Carmen happily agreed to give some of her toys to Toys for Joy. By the time the Toys for Joy bins arrived in the Point Loma lobby, Carmen decided she would give even more of her toys! Vivian remembers being moved to tears by her daughter’s decision.

A few years ago, Vivian separated from her husband and started attending Rock Church. Despite the hardships her family was experiencing, she knew this was a growing opportunity for her daughter. “For me it was like, I had to show her that no matter how bad things were, we still have to give to other people that are less fortunate. I just started showing her that there are other people who don’t have as much.” This was the spark that ignited Carmen’s heart for giving. 

This year, Carmen said she knew she had too much and wanted to give her toys away because it makes her happy. She said it’s important for other kids to give their toys “because they might have too much toys and they might want to give some away so they have the right amount of toys and they can both be happy. It’s good to share.”

This will be Vivian and Carmen’s first year volunteering for Toys for Joy. They can’t wait to see all the families this year and how their donation has blessed kids in the community.

The Paiva Family has been a part of Rock Church and Toys for Joy since 2008. Renoah is the first of their three children. Renoah's mom, Christina, doesn't know where to begin when it comes to describing her first child! "She is soft spoken and observant, taking time to notice the details about people and things in her life; this makes her a loyal friend and sister. Her heart to serve others is genuine, she is always quick to forgive. Something new about her this Christmas season: she and I love watching Hallmark Christmas movies together!"

Together, Christina and Renoah made the decision to donate her birthday toys to Toys for Joy this year. In anticipation for her 10th birthday, ("the big one-oh" as they called it) they wanted to do something extraordinary. Some of their family friends have used their children's birthday celebrations to benefit a variety of ministries and charities, so the Paiva kids have watched and learned so much about giving to others already. This year, Renoah loved the idea of giving her toys to Toys for Joy. She said it makes her sad and hurt that she gets toys and they don't, so they included this opportunity in her birthday invitation and even had an elf-themed party!

"Some guests brought presents specifically for Renoah, even though we didn't expect or request any; but we got way more donated toys! When she and I first talked about hosting a toy drive in conjunction with her birthday, Renoah didn't even bat an eye. She gave an enthusiastic, 'Yeah!' with a light in her eyes. Her response brought joy to my heart -- she didn't care about getting presents, and she was so excited to do something that would help so many other children," Christina said. After Renoah's birthday, her Aunt was so inspired by her 10-year-old niece that she decided to do the same thing for her 30th birthday! 

Even though Toys for Joy is an event that is designed to give to and serve kids (and their families), Christina believes that kids are also the ones that can make the difference in our communities. "God has given us all a passion to help others; as children, their passion is pure and ready to be unleashed! Our responsibility is to foster a servant's heart in them by setting the example ourselves and involving them in helping others. Then, we get to help them discover their own passions and interests, who they want to bless, and cheer them on while they serve. More often than not, they blow us away with the size of their hearts and imaginations!"

Two young girls gave sacrificially this year and made a difference in their community that will likely go beyond what they can even see! If you would like to give to Toys for Joy, visit toys-for-joy.org for more information on how you can help!