He may not have a sleigh and flying reindeer, but a Pittsburg County 4-H’er certainly has the spirit of giving this holiday season, recently making a difference in the lives of several thousand people.
Fifteen-year-old Reed Marcum has been spearheading an annual toy giveaway for four years, with 2020 being the biggest yet. With the help of numerous 4-H club members and other volunteers, Marcum handed out nearly $40,000 worth of toys and gift cards to more than 5,000 children.
“We had Barbie dolls, action figures, scooters, bikes, headphones and gift cards. There was something for everyone who drove by,” said Marcum, who has been an active 4-H’er for eight years and is a member of the Frink-Chambers 4-H Club.
The project started in 2016 when Marcum was told of a family that couldn’t afford much for the holidays. He later learned of more children in the community whose families were struggling. In just two weeks, Marcum was able to gather more than 1,200 gifts to distribute. Now the project takes nearly 100 volunteers to help on the day of the toy giveaway.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s giveaway was set up as a drive-by, and all workers wore masks and gloves. Handing out gifts took nearly eight hours; the line of automobiles was 16 blocks long at one point. In addition to one gift per child, volunteers handed out new hats, socks, underwear and gloves.
“Reed is one of the hardest working 4-H members you’ll find with one of the biggest hearts,” said Greg Owen, an Oklahoma State University Extension 4-H educator in Pittsburg County. “From a young age, he has always looked for ways to help. He has become the go-to person in the community when people are in need.”
Marcum also organizes two other large service projects: a book bag giveaway at the start of the school year and a silent auction to raise money for pediatric cancer. The latter has raised more than $33,000 for the Hudson Strong Foundation to fund scholarships for students going into the medical field.
Marcum’s efforts are in honor of a boy named Hudson who died from cancer, whom he learned about through social media.
“I saw his story on Facebook and it was something special. I wanted to find ways I could help others,” Marcum said.
For his efforts, he was recognized as the state record book project winner at the 2020 State 4-H Roundup. Owen said Marcum also has been instrumental in recruiting several new members to the Oklahoma 4-H Program and serves as an excellent role model.
“4-H has taught me leadership skills and helped me with my public speaking,” Marcum said. “I don’t get nervous anymore when I talk to a group of people.”
Marcum already is gearing up for the 2021 holiday event. Anyone who would like to donate toys or money to the project can contact Owen at the Pittsburg County OSU Extension office.