On December 9, the annual 4-H Toy Giveaway organized by Reed Marcum, an 18-year-old 4-H teen from Pittsburg County, Oklahoma, distributed more than 10,000 toys to children and families in need across Oklahoma, Texas, and Arkansas for the holidays.
“It’s it’s an amazing feeling. Just seeing the kids’ reactions,” Marcum told AGDAILY. “A little girl lined up at 5 in the morning to come get the dollhouse for dreams. And that was amazing. They even beat us there that morning to set up.”
Now a freshman at Oklahoma State University, the idea for the toy drive started with Marcum in the fifth grade.
“I noticed that not all of my classmates had school supplies. I wanted to ensure they could get them,” Marcum said. “Then, when Christmas rolled around, I remembered that their families couldn’t afford school supplies, and I wanted to make sure that nobody was left out and that every kid had toys under the tree.”
The first few volunteers Marcum recruited were his family, but soon, other companies caught on and began donating to the cause. More people started showing up to get toys as the word grew.
Marcum officially launched the annual toy giveaway through Oklahoma 4-H in 2016 — when he was just 11 years old.
“This year, it’s grown from a few volunteers where we got maybe a thousand toys to something that spans blocks with hundreds of volunteers and 10,000 toys,” Marcum explained.
Together with his hometown community of McAlester, Marcum has helped to give away more than 54,000 toys to date — and this year’s giveaway was the largest yet.
Starting at 3:30 am on Saturday, cars lined up for over 3 miles near the Southeast Expo Center in McAlester, Oklahoma, where Marcum, flanked by more than 100 volunteers, provided toys, clothing, candy, and holiday cheer to families and community members waiting in the vehicle line. Santa Claus and other recognizable costumed characters also made appearances during the event.
“This toy drive is about more than just presents. It’s about the joy of giving and helping those in our community who need it most,” said Marcum. “I’m grateful for the courage, confidence, and opportunities that 4-H has given me to stand up and make a difference for the people I care about.”
The 4-H Toy Giveaway is just one of the ways that Marcum has supported his community through 4-H. Marcum’s first 4-H service project. The 4-H Book Bag Giveaway has distributed nearly 30,000 book bags to kids of all ages in his community.
After a member of his community lost his life to pediatric cancer, Marcum started the Hudson Strong Foundation. This 501c3 organization raises funds to support pediatric cancer research and creates opportunities for other children to feel loved, develop self-confidence, and reach their full potential.
Altogether, Marcum’s projects have raised more than $3.5 million in funds and donated items. In recognition of his efforts, Marcum was named by the National 4-H Council as a winner of the 2024 4-H Youth in Action Awards, which honors 4-H’ers who have used their 4-H experiences to impact their community.
“Reed’s commitment to service, his love for his community, and his remarkable leadership represent the best of 4-H,” said Greg Owen, Pittsburg County 4-H Educator and Marcum’s mentor. “I’ve been so proud to support his service projects over the years and to watch the inspiring impact he’s had on our community continue to grow.”
As a freshman studying pre-law with an emphasis in sociology, Marcum plans to put his leadership skills to the test as a future criminal defense attorney.
“The whole McAlester community is grateful to Reed for his tireless commitment to helping our community, especially during this season of giving,” said John Browne, Mayor of McAlester. “Thanks to the efforts of Reed and his team of volunteers, the holidays will be brighter and more joyful for so many families in our town and far beyond.”
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