INDIANAPOLIS - Around this time every year, Keri Hunter begins filling her shopping cart – so that she can fill the hearts of children.
Hunter, in partnership with RTV6, leads a citywide toy drive each year. The project began in 2001, when Hunter and her husband Ben helped with collection, sorting and distribution in another toy drive.
"Seeing the families pick up their toys and crying and hugging us and thanking us, and saying, 'Without this small bag of gifts our kids would wake up Christmas morning without anything,' that has pulled at our heartstrings every year," Hunter said.
Now 12 years after their first toy drive, Hunter is in charge of the huge undertaking.
"In August, we start talking about December, and we start preparing for the toy drive," she said.
Hunter works with social service agencies to prescreen families in need, and then she does the leg work – all on a volunteer basis, while holding down a regular job and being a mom.
"It is really all about giving, and now it's part of my family," Hunter said. "My extended families like to do the toy drive every year. It's important to us and it means a lot to help kids just to have a fun Christmas morning."
In addition to toys donated through the drives, Hunter tries to make the most of the public's monetary donations.
"We try to shop really smart and get as many toys as we can," she said.
Hunter says she sometimes runs non-stop, but the toy drive gives her the drive to make sure kids have a brighter Christmas.
"It's one of those feelings … it's a good tired," she said. "You know: You go home, you feel exhausted, but you feel very accomplished."
For her hard work and commitment to making kids' Christmases a little brighter, Hunter is the RTV6 Jefferson Award winner for November.
If you'd like to nominate someone for a Jefferson Award, log on to our special Jefferson Awards section on the homepage of TheIndyChannel.com. There you can fill out a nomination form and learn more about the awards.