'A Symphony of Toys' collects gifts for those in need

Sunday, December 15, 2013 | 5:57 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — A tree in the crowded foyer of the Missouri Theatre decorated in twinkling lights and glassy red ornaments greeted people as they shuffled past in festive red-and-green sweaters.

A few cardboard boxes labeled with Toys for Tots logos were placed nearby, and as children walked past, they dropped toys into the boxes or placed them under the tree.

Those gifts were collected as donations from this year's "A Symphony of Toys" on Sunday. The Missouri Symphony Orchestra played a compilation of traditional holiday music, and children and students received free admission if they donated new, unwrapped toys. The toys from this year's concert collection will be donated and distributed by Toys for Tots.

Lili Vianello, president of the board of the Missouri Symphony Society, said that at last year's event, people donated three large, waist-high boxes of toys.

Ariana Turner brought her children to see the holiday-themed concert because she likes to expose them to music, saying she thinks music is just as important as a school subject. She let her children pick out gifts to donate from a stash of toys at home. 

Her daughter, 5-year-old Belen Turner, and Belen's two brothers, Graham and Heath, hand-picked a gift bag of toys to leave under the Christmas tree. 

"We brought toys for kids who don't have any," Belen said, "And we have a ton."

Ava Beary, 8, also said she wanted to bring toys for less fortunate children, but her brother Isaac said he was more excited for the symphony.

"I'm excited for the music," Isaac said. "'The Nutcracker' is my favorite."

Supervising editor is Allie Hinga.

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