WANTAGH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — This season of giving, one Long Island nonprofit is putting out a desperate call for toy donations. As we inch closer to the holidays, it’s struggling to keep up with demand.

Hundreds of new presents line the walls of the John Theissen Children’s Foundation in Wantagh, but Theissen himself says don’t be fooled; this is nothing compared to years prior.

“We’ve probably counted, approximately estimated 4,000-5,000 gifts so far, where normally we’d probably be at about 10,000-12,000 gifts,” he said.

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Theissen attributes the slow start to Thanksgiving falling so late this year, but parenting expert Erika Katz says it goes beyond that — stores closing their doors for good coupled with a rise in online shopping contributes.

“Traditionally, a toy store like Toys ‘R’ Us has a big dropbox right after the cash register. Well, if you’re not shopping there anymore, you might not be donating anymore. Additionally, people are buying toys online,” Katz said.

Even though donation boxes may not be right in front of you, it’s important to remember those in need. The John Theissen Children’s Foundation typically donates anywhere from 70,000-80,000 presents a year to children in hospitals, child service agencies or childcare facilities, but Theissen says just as soon as the gifts come, they go.

“I tell kids all the time, I tell people, a simple toy makes that boy or girl smile. It might not be much to the child who’s coming in and donating the Monopoly game but it’s so special to a kid who’s in the hospital or doesn’t have much,” he said.

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Theissen aims to fulfill a stack of wish lists every single year. He says children ask for everything from dolls and board games to something as simple as a winter coat.

“This time of year, it’s very important to think of others and also to teach your children to think of others. So find those toy drives. If your store doesn’t have one, go online and find a good place to donate a toy,” Katz said.

Every child should feel special this time of year. To make sure that happens in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, the foundation needs your help. It’s currently short on toys for infants and items for teenagers, such as sports gear and bath and body products.

The foundation will be collecting donations until Christmas. To find out how you can help, visit jtcf.org.


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