When the band Alabama heard that the Marine Corps Toys for Tots of DeKalb County needed help with their campaign, the boys from Fort Payne were quick to partner with the organization, and scheduled the Christmas in Dixie celebration to help collect toys for the underprivileged children of DeKalb County.

This year’s Christmas in Dixie celebration took place the day after Thanksgiving at the Alabama Fan Club Museum in Fort Payne.

Entry to Friday’s event required a new, unwrapped toy. The children who contributed to the cause got a ticket put in for a drawing for a chance to win a free bike.

Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry and Jeff Cook paused their tunes throughout the night to choose winning tickets, and the boys gave out eight free bicycles by choosing tickets from five age groups.

Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus were also there to visit and take photos with the children.

LaRue Hardinger, Marine Toys for Toys of DeKalb County coordinator, and active duty and reserve United States Marines were at the concert as well.

During the show, Owen recognized all Marines for their service.

“What better organization to have a concert for on the day after Thanksgiving than the Marine Corps Toys for Tots,” Owen said. “We appreciate our local servicemen and women and the men and women who are serving all across the world tonight. Wherever they may be, we appreciate their service and we know you do as well.”

Owen said the Marine Toy for Tots campaign has been serving needy children throughout the county for close to 10 years. Owen acknowledged their efforts and thanked the Marine Toys for Tots coordinators for their work.

“This is Fort Payne, Alabama and we love the men and women who serve our country,” he said. “Toys for Tots has been serving Fort Payne for seven years and they have done a great job.”

Hardinger and co-coordinator Landon Fant presented Alabama with a custom plaque award during the concert.

“Thank you all very much for what you do,” Owen said as he accepted the plaque from the Northeast Alabama Marine Corps League. “We are very honored to be part of this. On behalf of the boys in the band, we say thank you, and most of all, thank you to the folks who gave.”

Hardinger said the concert was a major contribution.

“This is huge for our Marine Toys for Tots campaign,” she said. “We are humbled and grateful that Alabama would think of us, and that they would take time from their busy schedules to hold such a wonderful event to help us.”

Hardinger said hundreds of toys were donated at Friday night’s concert. She said the toys will better enable the organization to provide new Christmas presents for the 1,122 children in need.

“We are thankful for every single sponsor and every donor who has given to Marine Toys for Tots this year,” she said.

Owen announced that Alabama plans on hosting Christmas in Dixie again next year.

For those who didn’t make it to the Christmas in Dixie toy drive and still want to donate, contact Hardinger at larueha@yahoo.com for more information.

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