By Tina Alvey
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — For a second year, The Greenbrier and the resort’s owner, Jim Justice, are donating $1 million in toys for children in need.
Justice launched this year’s “Create a Dream Tree for Kids” holiday gift drive Thursday at the resort, inviting hotel guests and community members to join the endeavor that last year provided some 30,000 gifts to 98 charities for distribution.
“This is a really fun day,” said Justice, standing in front of a ceiling-high Christmas tree constructed of brightly wrapped packages. “These are the days you really, really look forward to.”
Justice pointed out that many families are dealing with tough economic choices that could result in their children not having any presents to greet them on Christmas morning. He said by establishing the “Dream Tree” initiative, he feels he can “do a little part” toward making the holidays brighter for those youngsters.
“The giver’s always the one that wins,” Justice said. “It makes you feel better than those that are receiving.”
In its initial year, “Dream Tree” gifts were distributed region-wide, but Justice noted, “The lion’s share go within our area, even though we reach out even further.”
Indicating the stacked packages behind the podium, he said, “This is just the beginning. Come back next month, and there’ll be mountains of presents all around the hotel.”
The resort’s retail team has already purchased more than 24,000 gifts, including oversized stuffed animals, Hello Kitty puzzles, WOW toys and tabletop art easels. The year, The Greenbrier is also partnering with Paws2Care to donate more than 1,750 copies of the children’s book “Beamer Visits the Emergency Room,” along with “Beamer” stuffed animals, to be given to children who wake up in emergency rooms in the Inova Hospital network on Christmas morning.
Resort guests and community members who want to donate to the charity drive can choose any of the following options:
n Purchase an item for the “Dream Tree” from Fizzy’s Land of Oz, which is The Greenbrier’s toy shop.
n Donate a new, unwrapped toy at any of the resort’s retail shops.
n Give a donation in the form of cash or a personal check (made payable to “Old White Charities”) at the hotel’s front desk.
All gifts and proceeds will go toward the purchase of toys. Donations must be received by Dec. 12, and all are tax-deductible (receipts will be provided).
“We’re donating a million dollars,” Justice emphasized, “but if we get further (donations), that’s great.”
Volunteers who would like to help wrap gifts are asked to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with the date, time and names of those wishing to help.
Charitable organizations may register online at www.greenbrier.com/ dreamtree before Dec. 1 to request consideration.
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The launch of this year’s “Dream Tree” gift drive was later than last year’s, at least in part due to serious health problems from which Justice says he has now recovered.
During his opening remarks, Justice told the crowd gathered for the big announcement that this event was personally special because “in the last eight weeks, there were some really spooky times health-wise” for him.
He added, “In lots of ways, I’m just happy to be here.”
In response to a reporter’s inquiry, Justice recapped a saga that began with lapband surgery that had to be reversed due to the positioning of the band. A CT scan performed while he was in intensive care awaiting the procedure to remove the band revealed what appeared to be a mass on Justice’s lung, he said.
Although he protested, “I never smoked a cigarette in my life,” all the tests pointed to “cancer, cancer, cancer,” Justice said. But biopsy results were negative for malignancy, and the diagnosis was amended to a lung inflammation.
Justice’s sojourn in the hospital wasn’t over yet, however, as he developed a blood clot that also had to be addressed.
“I’ve had a little go-round, that’s for sure,” Justice said.
“I really feel like I’ve been touched by God to be here,” he stated. “I’m in great shape. I’m ready to go now.”
A beaming Justice wrapped up Thursday’s Dream Tree launch by introducing the crowd to his dog Molly, worthy successor to Fizzy, the late Boston terrier for whom The Greenbrier’s toy shop, Fizzy’s Land of Oz, is named.
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