Everyone benefits from autograph event

It's a feeling Doug Reid knows well. The joy received from getting an autograph from one of your sports heroes makes young kids feel happy and adults feel like young kids.

That feeling is why Reid still has the first autograph he ever received - a ball signed by Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller. It is also why he has his business - Venture Sports Shows at the Santa Fe Mall in Duluth.

Reid sells sports cards and memorabilia, and each year before Christmas he uses those connections to help the Marine Corps with its annual Toys For Tots toy drive. Kids and adults alike receive tickets to be redeemed for autographs with every toy donated, a practice that makes both the autograph seekers and the children who benefit from them happy.

"We've been able to help a lot of kids who wouldn't have Christmas otherwise," said Reid, a Tucker resident who has run Venture Sports Shows for 14 years. "We get a lot of satisfaction out of it. It's definitely a labor of love."

This is the eighth year Reid has helped Toys For Tots. He sets everything up (most autograph signers donate their time), organizing three days of signings which last year led to nearly $200,000 worth of toys being donated to the campaign.

Reid is hoping to better that with this year's event, which runs Dec. 8 through 10 and features a list of signers including former Atlanta Falcons Bobby Butler, Buddy Curry and William Andrews, former Atlanta Hawk Mike Glenn, former home-run champion Cecil Fielder and current Atlanta Braves pitcher Chuck James.

James also participated last year, before he was called up to the big-league team, and he won over Reid with his kindness and desire to help. Reid generally asks athletes to donate an hour of their time, but James volunteered on consecutive days for four hours each. Those who took advantage got the autograph of an up-and-comer who put up impressive rookie numbers this past season for the Braves.

"That's what was so fun about pulling for him last year, knowing what kind of guy he is," Reid said of James. "You really pull for a guy who is that willing to give back to the community."

The same can be said for Reid, and everyone else who pitches in to help the campaign. It's a great cause that includes a nice reward for those who come bearing gifts.

Reid will add more athletes to the bill in the next two weeks, hoping for upward of 50. He's also looking for volunteers to help during those three days (those interested can call 770-622-9344) and said officials from Toys For Tots have relayed a need for toys for little girls.

Reid is always appreciative of the athletes, but it's the kids who come by who make him nostalgic. Because before he did this for business, he did it for pure joy.

"I still remember when I got my (first autograph)," he said. "It was Bob Feller when I was 10 years old. It was unbelievable. I got a baseball signed, and believe it or not I still have it today."

That's the type of memory Reid hopes others will get from this year's autograph show, and from the Christmas gifts that will be collected because of it.

Todd Cline can be reached via e-mail at todd.cline@

gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Tuesdays.

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