Rim Country Bands Together to Save Christmas

When the new Mayor of Payson, Chris Higgins, called Cecilia (CC) Ransom to notify her that this year's Toys-4-Tots drive was not happening, the two of them immediately jumped into action to see what could be done to take up the slack.

CC Ransom was the 2022 coordinator for the 20th annual Barbie Hensler Memorial Toy Run. She works with the Greater Payson Moose Lodge 852 in Star Valley which actually sorts and distributes the toys, clothes and gifts collected each year. While Chris Higgins started to organize area businesses to provide an additional Community Toy Drive, CC Ransom notified Shelley Fowler at the Moose Lodge in Star Valley to "get ready to be slammed with requests for help".

In an average year, Barbie's Toy Run, sponsored by the High Country Chapter of ABATE of Arizona, is able to serve the needs of about 200 children from toddler through teenager in the Rim Country area from Tonto Basin to Payson to Tonto Village and Pine-Strawberry. Realizing that number might double was a cause for concern.

Meanwhile, CC, Shelley and Chris Higgins had come up with a plan to cross-promote each other's activities via web sites and flyers and work together to collect gifts, share lists, and help fulfill the needs of each group's efforts. Shelley at the Moose Lodge also stepped up their game with special dinners and other efforts that, in the end, netted over $3,000 in donations.

On December 10th, the day of the actual toy drives, many activities came together to collect the items and funds needed to ensure over 300 Rim Country area children from families that need a bit of help this Christmas, were met.

Chris Higgins had been able to keep the planned Golf Scramble happening, lined-up free movies at Sawmill Theatres as well as get toy collection boxes into 20 area businesses. Then, in addition to other events and commitments, he was the DJ at the Barbie Hensler Memorial Toy Run that took place at Midtown Yard in Star Valley.

Despite the current times we are in, the turn-out for Barbie Hensler was better than anticipated, particularly with the arrival of Payson's own Old Bastards Motorcycle Club (OBMC) who, literally, saved the day with their donations of toys as well as raffle and silent auction purchases. This was doubly appreciated as the OBMC is currently fund-raising for their own annual Christmas Hams on Hogs dinners that they provide for more than 20 area families every year!

In the end, nearly 40 area businesses and organizations came together to ensure Christmas will happen for everyone on both the Moose Lodge and the Community Toy Drive lists.

The 20th Annual Barbie Hensler Memorial Toy Run was able to raise over $3,700 and 5 truckloads of toys and gifts. Coupled with what the Moose Lodge had already brought in, they were able to cover any shortfalls in the Community Toy Drive and all the organizers and participating businesses were able to breathe a sigh of relief.

The list of people and organizations that banded together to save Christmas this year is long and, surely, missing some names, but High Country Chapter of ABATE of Arizona (which was also conducting a toy run in Show Low on the same day) would like to thank the following organizations and people without whom none of this could have happened.

Thank you, Greater Payson Moose Lodge 852 and, especially, Shelley Fowler. Thank you, Chris Higgins, Cindy Condit, Nancy Hubbs, Barbara Huber, Robert Mell, John at Midtown Yard, Cecilia Ransom, and the OBMC of Payson. Thank you, Craig at Sawmill Theatres, KRIM-LP FM 96.3, Tonto Amateur Radio Association, Miller Autoworks, Buchanan Construction, Punkin Center Bar & Grill, Buffalo Bar & Grill, El Rancho Mexican Restaurant, Garvin's RV & Adventures, Double D Bar & Grill, Pine Creek Fudge, Ponderosa Market, Pinewood Tavern, The Lodge at 5600 and Bandits Restaurant & Dirty Cowboy Saloon

Last, but certainly not least, a special Thank You to Barbie Hensler. We know you were watching over us and we miss you. Merry Christmas!