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TOYS FOR TOTS: Kingston sisters’ birthday gifts go to hurting kids

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By Damon Lawrence

Kingston sisters Anna Beth and Ellie Layne decided to do something different for their combined birthday party last month.

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Instead of gifts for them, they asked the invitees to bring an unwrapped toy to be donated to the Kids First Child Advocacy Center of the Ninth Judicial District.

“They know they’ve got lots of toys and are very blessed, so we wanted to try to think of something  we could do to help spread the love a little bit,” said mother Missy Layne. “They were happy to do it because we all got a little too much, and they realize that.”

Anna Beth, 9, attends Kingston Elementary School. Ellie, 5, is enrolled at an area daycare center.

“A big thanks to them for reaching out and paying it forward,” Child Advocacy Center Executive Director Chris Evans-Longmire said.

Evans-Longmire said she could recall only one other instance where someone did something similar for the center.

“It’s just a neat idea,” she said. “It’s something that other kids might look at and think, I could do that. I don’t really need anything, but I could do that to help other kids.”

Anna Beth said the idea came from a friend of theirs.

“We got invited to our friend’s birthday party and she had an idea to do something for animals,” Anna Beth said. “After that day, I went home and I told my mom, ‘Hey, it’d be fun to do something like that for our birthday party.’”

Roane, Loudon, Meigs and Morgan counties make up the Ninth Judicial District. The Child Advocacy Center in Loudon County serves children in the district who have been identified as victims of physical or sexual abuse. The services, which include therapy, forensic interviews and medical exams, are free.

“My older daughter understands a little more about their purpose and services,” Missy Layne said. “Ellie just says, ‘Are these the toys that are going to the sad kids? The kids that need to be happy?’”

Evans-Longmire said each child who visits the center for the first time is allowed to pick an item from the toy closet. That’s why the center has a need for toys.

“It’s simple stuff,” Evans-Longmire said. “It’s a Barbie doll or a soccer ball. It may be some books or something like that, and it’s kind of a nice closure piece. They get to go home with something nice in their hand for having to do something that’s unpleasant.”

Anna Beth said she hopes the toys they collected will bring a smile to a sad child’s face.

“I hope they will say, ‘Yeah!,’ when they see that closet full of stuff,” she said.

In addition to the toys, Missy Layne said her daughters collected $125 in donations at the party.