McHENRY – It all started one day in class, when Caden Ringer, 12, found out one of his peers wasn’t able to put together the $6 it would cost to come along on a field trip to see “Trolls” at the Woodstock theater.
Caden gave up some of his birthday money so his friend wouldn’t have to sit it out.
“It made me realize how many people don’t have enough money,” the Parkland School sixth-grader said.
That was a couple of months ago. On Saturday, Caden greeted visitor after gift-laden visitor as people walked into Brunch Café in McHenry. There, he and a small but growing group of kids who Caden recruited – the Home Run Helpers – collected Christmas presents for children their age and older.
“I want to get as many presents as I can for kids in my community … for kids 12 and up,” the middle-schooler said, noting that he learned Toys for Tots primarily aims to assist children 12 and younger.
His mother, Christy Kreush, said participation in Home Run Helpers is open to anyone in the McHenry Baseball Association, of which Caden, now a Bronco-level player, has been a part for five years. The group’s first event was to serve Thanksgiving dinner at the Depot Restaurant in Richmond.
“This is amazing,” coach William Glab said. “I’m proud of them.”
Even Mrs. Claus, in attendance with Santa, was impressed.
“This is awesome for a boy his age to be giving back to the community like this,” she said, standing in front of a decorated tree and two long benches loaded with new, unwrapped gifts. “It’s very humbling.”
Brunch Café not only agreed to allow the toy drive to take place at its McHenry location, but it opened the restaurant after hours and supplied hot cocoa.
“They really did welcome us with open arms,” Kreush said, adding that a number of local businesses also pitched in enough cash to add 20 tablets to the gift supply. Lining the benches Saturday was everything from makeup kits to soccer balls, board games and lava lamps.
Ellen Sagendorph, a social worker at Parkland School, said she’s working with Caden and his mom to make sure the presents wind up where they’re needed most. That the gifts are earmarked for older children is terrific, she added.
“It is a big deal, especially when their friends are getting gifts and everyone’s talking about the holiday,” Sagendorph said. “It’s a really nice thing.”