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Everyone is a winner when they donate unwanted prizes at San Diego County Fair

Del Mar resident, Nancy Stoke has collected 100,000 fair prizes and donates them to sick children.

DEL MAR, Calif. — A Del Mar woman has figured out a way that makes every person who visits the San Diego County Fair a winner. In this Zevely Zone, I learned about a special program called the Care 'n Share Toy Drive

When Nancy Stoke heard some fairgoers were tossing their stuffed animals and prizes in the trash, she decided to do something about it. 

"I thought that was an absolute waste and that they needed to go to somebody who needs them as opposed to somebody who doesn't want them," said Nancy. 

In 2009, Nancy and the Torrey Pines Rotary Club started the Care 'n Share Toy Drive. In their first full year, they collected a measly 150 toys. Longtime fair employee Cathy Osgan remembers those humble beginnings. "She had a trash can that she had right there, and people would just drop them off and if we'd get lucky, we'd get maybe twenty," said Cathy.

Credit: Care 'n Share Toy Drive

Year after year, Nancy kept showing up putting in 12-hour days and promising everyone who would listen that she would wash every donated toy, then hand deliver the toys to a child in need. "Wonderful, fabulous, exhausted, ha, ha, ha," said Nancy when describing why she kept the program going. Nancy says some fairgoers are reluctant to hand over prizes they spent money winning. "A few do, yes, but that is okay, we just say well thanks for coming and maybe next time," said Nancy.  As her "maybe next time" lines piled up, eventually, so did the toys. Nancy's collected 100-hundred thousand of them in the past 13 years. "What is in her heart is community. She is total community," said Cathy.  

Credit: Care 'n Share Toy Drive

The only thing bigger than Nancy's heart are some of the donations. "Somebody donated this huge cow, they could not fit it in the hole right there," said Cathy. "It was four and half feet wide and four feet tall," said Nancy. Holy cow! 

Credit: Care 'n Share Toy Drive

Just think of the smile on the face of the kid who receives that Super Cow. "It took two of us to carry it and we ended up cramming about half of it into the back of my car," said Nancy. "Then I hoped the Sheriff's Department out here were doing other things so I could sneak out."  

Credit: Care 'n Share Toy Drive

Cathy added, "What does that say about her? She will do anything, anything to help the community, to help these kids to give a little bit of happiness to their lives for what is going on." Fairgoers can now win twice; once when they win their prize and another when they give it away to a child too sick to attend the fair. "My heart goes out to the San Diego community for their donations," said Nancy.

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Fairgoers are met by collection boxes at every fair exit. For more information on donating to the Care 'n Share Toy Drive click here.

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