The Cherokee County Sheriff's Office and Russell Cellular/Verizon are partnering up to host their first 24-hour Christmas toy drive.

Deputy Sgt. Jarrod Rye credits a recent personal experience on how he was drawn to put the event together. His wife, Michelle Rye, is the one who came up with the idea of a toy drive.

"His goal is to have enough toys to donate to two hospitals, but the one [Verizon] picked was Saint Francis Children's Hospital," said Sheriff Jason Chennault.

The event, CCSO/Verizon 2019 Christmas Toy Drive, is set to kick off at noon on Friday, Nov. 15, in the Tahlequah Walmart parking lot. CC deputies will work around the clock until noon on Nov. 16.

"We will be out there for the whole 24 hours accepting donations," said Rye. "We'll either have the patrol trucks out there to hold the donations or we'll be out in the Hummer."

Rye said the event is also a perfect opportunity to serve as a meet-and-greet between the deputies and children, and they will have a Santa Claus out there.

"Anytime we can do a meet-and-greet is great. It gives all of us a better outlook," he said. "The kids can learn a lot about us and it reminds us why we do what we do."

After the 24-hour event, the donated toys will be taken to Saint Francis Children's Hospital, and if there have been enough donated, the rest will go to Northeastern Health System and W.W. Hastings Hospital.

"We hope we can get enough to include our local hospitals, as well," said Chennault. "Hopefully it will be successful enough that we can continue the program."

There are some restrictions as to what toys can be donated for SFCH. It's imperative that the toys are new and store-bought in the original packaging.

According to their website, due to the patients having a higher risk of acquiring an illness or infection, they cannot accept these items: Pre-loved or gently used items; items that have been in storage for an extended amount of time; stuffed animals without tags; beanie babies; or toys that depict weapons such as guns or swords.

Chennault and Rye said they would like for this event to help better someone else's Christmas a little bit.

Russell Cellular/Verizon in Tahlequah, Stilwell, and Sallisaw are accepting toy donations until Nov. 30.

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