The Gift of Giving

Stuff the Bus returns to help Fremont Co. families

Rusty Harris, WyoToday Media program director, helped collect toys and presents for families during last year’s Stuff the Bus event. WyoToday photo by Ernie Over.

By: Sarah Elmquist Squires

The joys of Christmas morning — of children leaping from their beds and tearing open colorful wrapping paper to discover the gifts in store, of parents and aunts and uncles excited to absorb those waves of happiness — can be a hallmark of life. Christmas makes memories that last a lifetime.

For families struggling to make ends meet, Christmas can be a stressful time. Parents, wondering how they’ll make the day special for their children, and kids themselves knowing their wish lists may remain just wishes. But in Fremont County, the spirit of giving is rich with generosity, and a community tradition aimed at ensuring kids across the county have something special to open on Christmas morning is upon us. Stuff the Bus is gearing up to meet the needs of community members during a year that was especially taxing for many families.

Rusty Harris, Wyotoday Media program director, explained that Stuff the Bus is an award-winning public service in the state through the Wyoming Association of Broadcasters, and the concept is pretty simple: Community members are asked to donate new, unwrapped toys and gifts for kids of all ages, from 1-18, and literally, stuff the WRTA Bus Lines Big Blue Bus. “Stuff the Bus is one of our oldest traditions at our stations,” she said. “You never really know the impact you can make on someone’s life until you’re a part of something like Stuff the Bus.”

“We’re definitely glad to be a part of it,” said WRTA Manager Gary Michaud. “It’s a really great way for people to directly make a difference in a child’s life.”

“It’s a good cause for the community, to come together and give the ones that aren’t really having a chance to have a good Christmas to experience that,” added Shawn Morehead, ACE Hardware manager. ACE will be one of the upcoming sites where people can donate and place gifts into Stuff the Bus bins, and the Big Blue Bus will be parked at the store on December 9 from 2-4 p.m. for a live, on-air radio drive to get community members in action to donate.

Knowing that there are people out there who care can make a big difference to families on Christmas. “We’ve had families on the list that struggle financially,” explained Harris. “Sometimes children on the list are coming from a situation where someone is ill and in some cases, families that have lost a parent. Each year, our community has a very real chance of making a child feel the joy of a stranger being kind. Their family knows that there’s someone out there that cares about them this holiday season.”

“I just think it encumbers the true spirit of Christmas,” explained Michaud. Donors have the chance to share the holiday spirit, and parents can help teach their children about generosity, too. “It’s a chance for a person to really be able to serve others unselfishly. Those people are right here in our county, right here where we can make a difference to our neighbors … It’s Christmas; let’s get out there and show the spirit of Christmas and make a difference. Let’s do what we say we’re doing, and let’s get that bus stuffed.”

Your first chance to donate will be this coming Friday, November 25, a day that’s become synonymous with rushing out to stores to take advantage of Black Friday sales. The Big Blue Bus will be parked at Murdoch’s in Riverton from 10 a.m. to noon, then at The Ranger in downtown Riverton, 421 East Main Street, from 2-4 p.m., sponsored by WYDOT. On December 2, from 3-5 p.m., the bus will be at Central Wyoming College in Riverton. On December 9 from 2-4 p.m., ACE Hardware will host the bus on December 9 from 2-4 p.m.; Bomgaars in Lander will welcome Big Blue on December 10 from 10 a.m. to noon. Later that day, December 10, the bus will travel to the Riverton Museum for a big affair with food, Santa, and more (be sure to keep reading for information) from 2-4 p.m. On December 15, Hometown Freedom Healthcare will play host from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Wyoming Waste will be at Palace Pharmacy with the bus on December 16 from 3-5 p.m.

Families looking to sign up themselves, or another family in need, can stop by The Ranger, where they will be asked to provide contact information, as well as the ages and genders of the kids. After they sign up, local volunteer firefighters will deliver toys the weekend before Christmas.

Those interested in donating money may make checks out to The Wind River Radio Network, which also may be dropped off at The Ranger. Receipts are available upon request.

More events and details will be available in future editions of The Ranger, Lander Journal and Wind River News, so be sure to check back in for more chances to share Christmas cheer.