By RODNEY HO/ firstname.lastname@example.org, originally filed Wednesday, December 16, 2015
For a quarter century, radio host Clark Howard has been raising money to get gifts to needy kids. Since the mid-1990s, those gifts have specifically gone to foster children in the state of Georgia.
This month, listeners were asked to provide gifts for 6,800 foster kids, up from 5,200 last year. Howard said a big jump in parents with drug problems has contributed to the strain on the system.
When I came by Sunday for the gift collection at Wal-Mart on Cobb Parkway near the Big Chicken, Howard was genuinely worried that they wouldn't be able to it off given the 30 percent increase in children. "We're busting our butts," he said.
But when the final totals came in Wednesday, he breathed a sigh of relief. They had again collected enough gifts and cash to guarantee every foster child will get at least one gift on their wish list.
"It is truly miraculous," Howard texted. "I am stunned."
My colleague and columnist Gracie Bond Staples wrote about being a foster child and Clark's charity efforts in her latest column Read it here.
At the Wal-Mart, shoppers picked pages with the child's name, age and gift preferences. They then buy the items and hand them over to the volunteers, many whom are part of the National Guard. (Howard has been part of the National Guard since 9/11 and dresses the part on days like this.)
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul Georgia provides all the logistics, ensuring all the gifts get to the kids by Christmas. "I am the figurehead," said Howard, who hosted a live show from the Wal-Mart, bringing fellow WSB-TV and radio people on air to help him. That morning, Wes Moss, Dave Huddleston and Linda Stouffer joined him.
When I asked Howard why they chose foster children in the mid-1990s, he no longer recalls who came up with the idea. "My life is such a blur!" he said. "I loved it. It was funny because I kind of fostered this program. Everybody who wants to help kids any way they want to help is cool with me."
Howard's syndicated radio show is heard locally from 8 to 10 p.m. weeknights on News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB.
WSB and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution are both part of Cox Media Group.
Here are some photos from the event: