Leon is a huge supporter of the Holiday Toy Drive conducted every November at America’s Car-Mart. For the 12th year, Car-Mart dealerships will collect toys for delivery to kids at children’s hospitals.
“I have a special story with a children’s hospital. I have a special connection because of my son, Leo,” says Leon, Car-Mart’s Chief Operating Officer. Leon spent the first few hours of his baby son’s life at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock in 1991. Leo was thought to have tracheomalacia.
At the hospital, Leon walked by nearly 50 infants in incubators. “To see those kids – my hands were bigger than some of those babies,” Leon recalls. “That really told us how fortunate we were. Whatever Leo had, gave us hope. This put us in our place.”
After a long week at the hospital, the Walthall family was cleared to go home with their healthy baby boy.
With that experience etched in his brain, Leon knew he needed to do something for the kids. So, when Car-Mart transferred Leon to northwest Arkansas in 2009, he jumped at the opportunity to do some good – for the children, as well as for Car-Mart’s managers. And the company’s Holiday Toy Drive was underway.
“Trying to give back to the community in some fashion has always been on my heart. Besides, who wouldn’t want to give a toy to a kid,” says Leon. “I’m deeply passionate about our toy drive. When I see the impact it makes on the 2,000 people who work for Car-Mart, it’s going to do nothing but help. It, also, speaks volumes to how we try to live out our company’s mission and vision.”
For Leon, the toy drive is also an opportunity to cultivate gratitude and develop people. “I believe it is our job [as Car-Mart leaders] to not only grow better general managers at Car-Mart but to grow better people,” continues Leon. “That’s why we’re here on earth.”
Spreading holiday cheer
For the first toy drive in 2009, the Car-Mart team partnered with The Children’s Hospital at St. Francis in Tulsa, Okla. Car-Mart General Managers bought a few presents out of their own pockets for the kids.
“The hospital was blown away because no one was doing this. We didn’t do it for advertising. We did it because it’s the right thing to do,” says Leon, while adding a mom called him asking Car-Mart to share the joy at her child’s hospital. So, for the second year, a second hospital was added for toy deliveries.
Since those first years, the Holiday Toy Drive has grown exponentially – more and more associates and customers bring toys, and vendors, also, contribute to the worthy cause. During 2019, Car-Mart delivered toys to five children’s hospitals.
This year, toys collected from the toy drive will be shared with children at 14 hospitals located within the company’s 12-state area. [See the list of hospitals below].
“We have a big goal, but it’s worth the effort, and our associates are up to the challenge at Car-Mart. I want this to be the best toy drive ever,” Leon says. “I want each of our Car-Mart dealerships to fill a truck bed. I love how the managers of Car-Mart have taken hold of this toy drive.”
Seeing a child’s smile
There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing a smile on a child’s face when receiving a gift at Christmas. “We’re all taken away by their spirit,” says Leon, who added the toy drive has made a significant impact on Car-Mart’s general managers and leadership team.
“To see grown men and women weep because a kid’s spirit has lifted them up,” Leon says. “A child with a huge spirit of life often moves adults to want to make a difference.”
According to Leon, Car-Mart’s toy drive is the ‘most important thing we can do in November and December.’ “It’s bigger than selling cars. It’s bigger than business initiatives,” he says. “It’s all about the kids.”
“At Car-Mart we go to work with a purpose. We have a place in this world. If 2020 has taught us anything, we need more companies to help make our world a better place,” concludes Leon. “And, at the end of the day, it’s for the kids.”
Share your Joy – Give a Toy.
During November, it’s our Holiday Toy Drive campaign at America’s Car-Mart! Bring in a new, unwrapped toy (valued at $10 or more) and take advantage of half off the down payment on any vehicle. Or just drop off a toy.
The hospitals to receive toys as part of Car-Mart’s Holiday Toy Drive include:
- Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Little Rock, Ark.
- Arkansas Children’s Northwest Hospital, Springdale, Ark.
- Children’s of Alabama, Birmingham, Ala.
- Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Atlanta, Ga.
- Children’s Medical Center, Dallas, Texas
- Cook Children’s Medical Center, Fort Worth, Texas
- Mercy Children’s Hospital, Springfield, Mo.
- Norton Children’s Hospital, Louisville, Ky.
- John’s Medical Center, Tulsa, Okla.
- Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, Tenn.
- The Children’s Hospital, Oklahoma City, Okla.
- The Children’s Hospital at St. Francis, Tulsa, Okla.
- TriStar Centennial Medical Center, Nashville, Tenn.
- Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Columbia, Mo.
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