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Toys for Tots events across Butler County aim to collect more toys than ever before

Litzenberg Annual Holiday House Tour
Karns City resident Mike Camerot has been opening his house for the past six years to host what he calls the Litzenberg Annual Holiday House Tour. A group involved in the toy collection process met at his house Nov. 26. Pictured here, the group passes around gifts. Included in the picture above, from left, are Mike Camerot, Paula Helms, Beth Butcherine, Holly Thompson, Kirby Litzenberg, Chuck Swidzinski, Jared Sullivan, Natalie Clark and Brett Clark. Holly Mead/Special to the Eagle

The time has come for those white boxes with red lettering to start popping up just about everywhere imaginable, but the donations won’t stop there.

Toys for Tots, the program run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve which distributes toys to children whose parents cannot afford to buy them Christmas gifts, is looking to spread even more Christmas cheer than ever before with the help of some Butler residents like Jared Sullivan and Chuck Swidzinski of Berkshire Hathaway, among others.

Sullivan said Berkshire will be hosting its Chuck Swidzinski team’s annual Toys for Tots event at the Brick House in Butler starting at 5 p.m. Dec. 7.

“Santa comes, the Grinch comes and we provide food,” Sullivan said. “It's an open invite to the public, and we ask that anyone who comes brings a new unwrapped toy. It has grown to where we get over 2,000 toys donated every year and usually about $10,000 to buy more toys.”

Swidzinski said the event, now in its 12th year, sees about 700 people each year, who bring in around 2,000 toys that the Marine Corps take away at the end of the night.

“A lot of people say to me it's a nice way to give and start the celebration of the holiday season,” Swidzinski said. “I think the people of Butler are very giving. It's nice to give back to the community because we make our living off of the community.”

Litzenberg Annual Holiday House Tour
Karns City resident Mike Camerot has been opening his house for the past six years to host what he calls the Litzenberg Annual Holiday House Tour. Pictured above are decorations at his house. Holly Mead/ Special to the Eagle

The giving doesn’t stop there, as Karns City resident Mike Camerot has been opening his house for the past six years to host what he calls the Litzenberg Annual Holiday House Tour.

Camerot said the event is open to anyone who comes with a new, unwrapped toy. Guests will be treated to a light display of Christmas trees and other decorations, with cookies, hot chocolate and coffee.

“It takes about an hour to go through,” Camerot said. “Every room is open. There are multiple trees in every room. Lots of families come and some have made this a holiday tradition of theirs.”

Litzenberg Annual Holiday House Tour
Karns City resident Mike Camerot has been opening his house for the past six years to host what he calls the Litzenberg Annual Holiday House Tour. Pictured above are decorations at his house. Holly Mead/ Special to the Eagle

Camerot said the house tour collected about 1,600 toys last year. The house tour is open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in December from 6 to 9 p.m. at 1734 Oneida Valley Road in Karns City.

“About seven years ago the Butler Symphony came to us and asked us to be on their house tour,” Camerot said. “They asked us to be on the tour again the next year, so we did it again. Those were during the day, and it's so magical here at nighttime with all the trees lit up. We then thought why not open up the house and do something for the community.”

Beth Butcherine, of Boyers, has been hosting a “Toys for Tots Bingo” event for the past six years, she said, at the Beer Garden in Petrolia. The event took place on Nov. 16 where they were able to raise some money for Toys for Tots, while collecting toys as well.

“You play bingo; we have a 50/50 raffle and basket raffles,” Butcherine said. “This past Thursday we did $5,000. We do a thing if people bring a toy we give them a free bingo card. This year my niece bought a $50 gas card and for each toy they brought they got a ticket for that.”

Butcherine said the evening would not have been made possible without the help of the Beer Garden.

Sullivan, Camerot and Butcherine are all friends, Butcherine said, and she is happy with the success all their individual events have had in recent years.

“We all support each other,” Butcherine said. “Yeah, there are three different things going on, but we are all friends, and we are all in this together. I go to their events, and they come to mine.”

Butcherine said she also has raised about $2,000 for Toys for Tots throughout this year by leaving out a donation jar at her family’s beer distributor called Butcherine's Distributor in Boyers.

In 2022, Toys for Tots distributed 13,968 toys to 2,245 children in the Butler County, according to its website.

Machell Krumpe, co-coordinator at the Butler Toys for Tots said those numbers also include some donations from Clarion County as well.

Across the United States, the program distributed a record-breaking 24.4 million toys, books and games in 2022 to 9.9 million disadvantaged children with the help of over 50,000 volunteers.

“I have been volunteering for 20 some years, and I feel that every year the numbers go higher,” Krumpe said.

Krumpe said the Butler Toys for Tots will be hosting a toy drive on Dec. 3 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the both the Butler Walmart and Sam’s Club locations.

“Our goal every year is to be here for the people that just need that extra help over the holidays and give the children and the families a good holiday,” Krumpe said. “We do have families that wouldn't have anything for their children if it wasn't for us.”

For those interested in simple donations to Toys for Tots, Krumpe said people can visit their website at butler-pa.toysfortots.org.

Litzenberg Annual Holiday House Tour
Karns City resident Mike Camerot has been opening his house for the past six years to host what he calls the Litzenberg Annual Holiday House Tour. Pictured above are decorations at his house. Holly Mead/ Special to the Butler Eagle
Litzenberg Annual Holiday House Tour
Karns City resident Mike Camerot has been opening his house for the past six years to host what he calls the Litzenberg Annual Holiday House Tour. A group involved in the toy collection process met at his house Sunday, Nov. 26. Pictured in the back row, Mike Camerot, Paula Helms, Beth Butcherine, Holly Thompson and Kirby Litzenberg and in the front row, Natalie Clark, Brett Clark, Jared Sullivan and Chuck Swidzinski.Holly Mead/Special to the Butler Eagle

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