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Duluth family gives toys

Toy Story: A Duluth family’s tradition of giving

Added on Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Tim and Karla O’Donnell’s sons are all grown up now, but that hasn’t stopped this family in Duluth, Minn. from continuing a tradition they started more than 15 years ago: giving Christmas away.

They did it again this year. Soon after Thanksgiving weekend, they showed up at the Duluth Salvation Army with shopping bags filled with dozens of presents for teens and tweens (pictured above).

“We’d heard there was a shortage of gifts for children in that age group,” Karla said.

The family had just come from Target, where they’d loaded four shopping carts with sporting goods, arts and crafts, gift cards, and other items commonly found on teenagers’ wish lists.

Toy shopTheir shopping spree amounted to another successful Christmas of spending money on presents for people other than themselves.

“The boys always love it,” said Karla, whose sons range in age from 20 to 26. “One of them said he can’t wait to do this with his own kids someday.”

The family first began giving away their Christmas in the early 2000s through a Salvation Army program that allowed donors to “adopt” families in need. They later switched to their current tradition of going on a shopping spree together.

The family looks forward to it every year.

“We’ve had some great experiences,” Karla said. “It’s been fun teaching the boys about giving. Through giving, you can really change someone’s day – if not their life.”

Girl opens presentIf you too would like to change a child’s Christmas, it’s not too late. The Salvation Army is still accepting donations of new, unwrapped toys at all of our locations in the Twin Cities, Greater Minnesota, and North Dakota. Gifts are especially needed for kids ages 12–17. Or, give online and we’ll do the shopping for you.

In the days before Christmas, The Salvation Army will give toys to thousands of children in Minnesota and North Dakota. Last year our Toy Shops distributed nearly 140,000 gifts, ensuring that countless children would wake up on Christmas morning with a present from Santa.

Poverty is an everyday battle. People experiencing poverty are not without hope – their lives are just harder than they should be. The Salvation Army is helping to make their lives a little easier, thanks to your gifts of time and money. Join us in the fight for good by giving online or donating at a red kettle, becoming a volunteer bell ringer, or recruiting your own army as a fundraiser on Learn more about how The Salvation Army fights poverty in your community.