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Susan Roskell Toy and Gift Drive

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This month the Complete Parts and @ The Coalface $500 Community Gift goes to a local Newcastle father who has made it his mission to give disadvantaged children a reason to smile at Christmas.

Todd Sheldon has just launched the seventh annual Susan Roskell Toy and Gift Drive, a community initiative established with the goal of providing gifts and toys to children, and their parents and carers, who have been impacted by the effects of domestic and family violence, homelessness, illness and injury.

The idea for the annual Toy and Gift Drive came about in 2016, after Mr Sheldon, his wife Penny, son, Lachlan and other close family members donated wrapped gifts to the local Reading Cinemas Maitland Wishing Tree appeal to support struggling families during the festive season.

The donated toys and gifts are provided to local charities and organisations such as The Backpack Venture, Got Your Back Sister, Early Links, Maitland Neighbourhood Centre, Carrie’s Place, Jenny’s Place and The Farmer’s Run.

“Growing up as a child, we saw Mum work two and three jobs, it was a hard life that meant that I had to look after my little brother at night whilst Mum worked,” Mr Sheldon said.

“I was not afforded a childhood like other kids. We saw things happen to Mum that no child should see happen. This is one reason why our main focus has always been families affected by domestic and family violence, and this will always be very important.”

The importance of Mr Sheldon’s mother was brought to the fore in 2021 when the toy and gift drive was renamed the Susan Roskell Toy and Gift Drive in response to her passing after her battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.

Despite the devastation of losing a loved one, 2021 was the most successful year of the drive yet, with more than 7000 gifts distributed to children in need.

Unwilling to stop there, Mr Sheldon is striving for even greater things in 2022 – the Susan Roskell Toy and Gift Drive aims to broaden its support to include families affected by mental health, sickness, injury and carers of children whose parents are absent.

The drive is also looking to widen its areas of support beyond Lake Macquarie, Newcastle and Hunter, by extending to other regional areas of NSW – and ultimately, to all states of Australia.

“Our goal is reaching more and more families, our ultimate goal is to take the initiative nationwide, and extend the gifts to parents and carers too,” Mr Sheldon said.

The running of the Drive every year has been primarily self-funded by the Sheldon family.

“With each year, since the first Drive in 2016, the donations have steadily increased with in excess of 20,000 toys and gifts being donated,” Mr Sheldon said.

“We kicked off the 2022 Susan Roskell Toy and Gift Drive to coincide with Christmas in July, and we’re appealing to sporting clubs, community organisations, businesses and individuals to get on board and support us whether it be through financial sponsorship, toy donations or even as a drop-off location.”

Two special events are being planned for October and November: a family Halloween fundraiser at Newcastle’s Cricketers Army Hotel on October 30 and a barefoot bowls day at the Lorn Park bowls, sport and recreation club on November 13. For more information go to www.facebook.com/2022SusanRoskellToyandGiftDrive. For more information about the Susan Roskell Toy and Gift Drive, and the full list of donation drop-off locations, visit www.susanroskelltoyandgiftdrive.org

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