Sain’s Stuffed Giving

The Sain’s Stuffed Giving Drive is back and is looking for more stuffed animals than ever before to give away at this year’s Salvation Army Thanksgiving Day Feast.

Gary Sain, the former president and CEO of Visit Orlando who is credited with helping to build Orlando into the tourism city that it is today, started the drive. From 2007 until his death in 2012, he collected stuffed animals to gift to the kids at the annual Thanksgiving event, bringing many smiles to the faces of our youngest community members over the years.

After Gary’s passing, his drive stopped for several years with no one to take over the effort. Last year, his daughter Olivia was going through her closet when she found 150 stuffed animals that her father left behind. That moment sparked a realization in her that she needed to rekindle her late father’s tradition by continuing to collect the toys to not only spread the happiness to others as her dad once did but also to honor him.

That is when Sain’s Stuffed Animals found its name and new life. Olivia’s first year operating the drive impacted her in more ways than she expected. Seeing firsthand how such a small gesture could bring such a great deal of joy to someone propelled her to continue with the drive this year. What surprised her most at last year’s feast was that more adults wanted the stuffed animals than children because it would be the only present they could give to their grandchildren during the holiday season. If there was a specific animal they wanted, Olivia looked through the mound and tried her hardest to fulfill that wish.

The toys will once again be passed out at the Salvation Army Thanksgiving Day Feast, which welcomes anyone who can’t afford a Thanksgiving meal. Currently, Olivia has collected about 700 stuffed animals to give away but is ultimately hoping to gather thousands. With over 20,000 people in attendance at last year’s Thanksgiving Day Feast, she knows that receiving that amount of stuffed animals is a stretch but also hopes to come close this year.

Mental Health Association’s Project Cheer

If she collects a sufficient amount of stuffed animals for the feast, she would then like to open up donations to other organizations. To follow through with this goal, this year she was able to donate 100 stuffed animals to the Mental Health Association’s Project Cheer. To take her efforts a step further, she even hopes to deliver new and packaged stuffed animals to children with cancer and other childhood diseases who are in the hospital for the holidays.

The following drop-off locations are accepting stuffed animal donations:

180 Park Avenue North
Winter Park, FL, 32789

Outpost Neighborhood Kitchen
2603 Edgewater Dr
Orlando, Florida 32804

Retromended Vintage
930 N Mills Ave, Orlando, FL 32803

Rosen College of Hospitality Management
9907 Universal Blvd, Orlando, FL 32819 (starting October 1)

Orlando Magazine
801 N Magnolia Ave #201, Orlando, FL 32803 (starting October 1)


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Written by Larissa Hamblin

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