Truckers for Kids, a holiday toy drive started by truckers nine years ago, has grown from providing gifts for a dozen children to now serving more than 125 needy children in southeast Missouri.

Truckers for Kids, a family-run, non-profit organization, provides gifts to children from 28 area schools. In addition to toys — chosen with input from school personnel — each recipient receives an outfit, hat and gloves, a scarf if possible, underwear, toothbrush, toothpaste and a goody bag with fruit and candy.

“It got started because a family needed help at Christmas, and since my husband, Preston, is a truck driver, his friends heard about it and started sending money to help,” Diane Cook, of Morehouse, MO, told the Southeast Missourian. “It blossomed from there.”

She said it can be heartbreaking reading children’s requests, which sometimes include socks and underwear, or a box of Band-Aids and a mattress to sleep on at night.

“It gives them a new concept on life,” Cook’s daughter Toni said. “We all take for granted what we’ve got. When a kid asks for a mattress to sleep on, or they just ask for a nice shirt to wear to school so they don't get made fun of, it makes you see.”

Most of the donations come from truck drivers, but public donations are always welcome, Diane Cook said.

“Money is always needed, but if you can’t give money, then we can always use basketballs, footballs, baby dolls or anything like that,” she said.

For more information about Truckers for Kids or donations, contact Diane Cook at 573-471-7896.