Student creates nonprofit to support toy drive

Grayson (left) and Reid ’16 Herrera

Cameron Reid Herrera ’16 and his younger brother, Grayson (a 2015 Step Up to STEM participant), of Harrisburg, NC, have created Operation Toy Drop Elves, Inc., a 501(c) nonprofit organization, to support the charity Operation Toy Drop. The toy drop is an annual philanthropic project that collects new, unwrapped toys from paratroopers at Fort Bragg, NC, and distributes them to local children’s homes and social service agencies in North Carolina. In return, the paratroopers earn a chance to earn foreign jump wings. Beginning in 2016, the entity will expand to support other charitable causes within the Airborne community, primarily at Fort Bragg.

North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics students first got involved with Operation Toy Drop in 2012. Since then, students, alumni, and friends of the school have donated 300 to 400 toys annually. As students graduated and moved across the country, it grew difficult for them to stay involved.

“We saw that NCSSM alumni wanted to continue their relationship, but it was just not practical for college students to buy, package, and ship a toy from the various corners of the United States to NCSSM,” says Reid. “Alums kept saying, ‘It’d be so much easier if I could just send a check.”

So the Herrera brothers set to work creating the nonprofit entity. They were introduced to Harrison Marshal, senior partner at McGuireWoods, LLP, in Charlotte, NC.  Marshal once served as a captain in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps of the US Army and also earned foreign jump wings.

“With Mr. Marshal’s military background, he completely understood the concept,” says Grayson. Marshal and John Hoke, a second attorney, helped the students form Operation Toy Drop Elves. To increase awareness and participation from other high school students in North Carolina, an advisory student council was included in the organization. Up to 20 North Carolina high school students are eligible to serve on the council. Among the NCSSM alumni helping the Herreras, “we especially want to thank Grant Means ’12 and Catherine Farmer ’14 for providing support,” says Reid.

“After creating Operation Toy Drop Elves, we realized that we named it too narrowly. We want to expand and support the greater airborne community,” says Grayson. “As we grow our involvement in 2016, we plan to change the name to reflect a wider commitment.”

Visit the Operation Toy Drop Elves, Inc. website to support the organization.

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