Thursday, January 21, 2021

18th annual Larry Tutson, Jr. Toy Giveaway adapts and delivers

By David Wilfong
NDG Contrinuting Writer

The drum set at R.L. Griffon’s Blues Palace II hasn’t made a sound since March. The popular music venue is one of many which have been hard hit by the coronavirus shutdowns. But the Christmas spirit wasn’t going to miss a beat.

On Dec. 19, the Blues club once again came to life to deliver a Merry Christmas to area children. Starting well before the sun came up, trucks began arriving with toys and bicycles, all destined for anxious children looking to celebrate the holiday season.
The event was begun by noted Dallas Blues performer Gregg A. Smith.

(David Wilfong / NDG)

“Of course 2020’s been a strain on everyone around the world with the pandemic,” Smith said. “So this year we’re having to do it completely different from the previous 17 years. Bu we are glad that the Lord has blessed us to be able to do it once again in spite of the obstacles, to serve this community right here in the center of South Dallas; one of the most unserved communities in the Metroplex. We started it right here, 18 years ago.”

Smith, along with his wife Barbara, began the toy drive in memory of their son Larry Tutson, Jr. who was murdered in 2002.
“He’s gone, but we’re crying his legacy on, carrying his spirit on,” Smith said. “He was a giving person, helping someone when his life was taken. So now we just decided to turn that into a giving spirit to the community and serve the community.”
The Larry Tutson, Jr. Christmas Toy Giveaway is normally held on his birthday, which is Dec. 23. However, due to the unusual conditions in 2020, organizers decided to host the event on the weekend to make it more convenient for parents.
As a precautionary measure against the spread of COVID-19, the toy giveaway was held as a drive-through event, to maximize social distancing during the process.
Dozens of volunteers participated, with each one being checked out at a nurses station prior to starting.

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