Blues lovers share toys for tots in Washington County

November 05, 2007|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN - Blues bands from Washington, D.C., to Harrisburg, Pa., converged on Hagerstown Sunday for Blues for Tots, a charity gig where the only cost of admission was a children's toy and the only pay for the bands was the pleasure of each others' company.

"No cash changes hands," said organizer Ronnie Ray of Ronnie Ray and the Coolers, who started the annual concert three years ago. "The bands don't even get gas money."

That didn't seem to bother Nate Myers, of Nate Myers and the Aces, who said the draw for him was the chance to see Ray. Most bands don't have gigs on Sunday, so they're happy to spend the day with fellow blues lovers while helping out a good cause, Ray said.

Meanwhile, the toys piled up: a Nerf basketball, a toy dump truck, a Transformers action figure, a baby doll, a football.


All the toys will be distributed to children from needy families in Washington County as part of the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots campaign, said Wayne Gross, the county's Toys for Tots campaign coordinator.

This year, the Salvation Army, which handles the toy distribution, has more than 700 families in the county in line to receive toys, Gross said.

"There are about 2,700 needy children in Washington County, who if Toys for Tots doesn't step in, there's a good chance they won't get anything for Christmas," he said.

The campaign has about 50 collection bins scattered throughout the county and has several other toy-raising events coming up, but the Blues for Tots event reaches some people who otherwise might not come in contact with the campaign, Gross said.

For his part, Ray said he wished Blues for Tots were bigger. Guests came and went throughout the event, which lasted from 1 to 8 p.m. at the Elks Lodge on Robinwood Drive, but they never came close to filling the large room, he said.

Many of the fans who were there weren't even from Hagerstown.

"I think it needs to be advertised more locally," said Virginia Ivanoff of Harrisburg, Pa., who came with six other members of the Blues Society of Central Pennsylvania.

Ray said that for the home of the Western Maryland Blues Festival, Hagerstown doesn't seem to have a very organized or active blues community of its own.

Betty Hardinge, 50, of Hagerstown, agreed the turnout could have been better.

"I wish more people know about it," said Hardinge, who found out about the event through an e-mail list for the band Rudy and The Bluefish. "Besides the fact that it's fantastic music, it also benefits a very good cause."

If you go

What: Another chance to donate toys for the Toys for Tots campaign

When: Nov. 17 and 18, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: KB Toys at Prime Outlets at Hagerstown

Shoppers will be challenged to fill a Toyota van with new, unwrapped toys to be donated to make the holidays brighter for needy children in Washington County.

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