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Autograph show marks businessman's 10th year of supporting Toys for Tots

Like a lot of folks, Doug Reid has seen his business change over the years. He still deals in sports collectibles, but Reid no longer has retail space, preferring to sell via the Internet.

But one thing remains the same for Reid, who ran Venture Sports Shows at Duluth's Santa Fe Mall (previously Venture Mall) for more than a decade - his dedication to the Toys for Tots campaign. Because of that Reid returns to Gwinnett this weekend with an autograph show at the Village Shoppes at Creekside, located at Ga. highways 120 and 316 in Lawrenceville.

The show, Reid's 10th year of supporting Toys for Tots, runs Friday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day (for a full schedule go to www.autographhelper.com) with autograph tickets handed out for each toy donated. There will also be 50 collectibles dealers on hand, giving visitors a chance to shop for sports-themed Christmas gifts while donating toys.

"We had 25 people signing autographs the first year and this year we'll have more than 60," Reid said. "It's gotten bigger every year. That first year we brought in $20,000 worth of toys and this year we're hoping to top more than $300,000."

That haul of toys makes Reid the No. 2 private individual contributor in the Atlanta campaign, according to Toys for Tots officials. Which is saying something since the Atlanta campaign ranks No. 1 in the nation.

"It's guys like (Reid) who truly make a difference," said Buford resident and Chief Warrant Officer A.T. Wilson, the Marine coordinator for the Atlanta campaign of Toys for Tots. "He's an actual doer. And the fact that the contributors get something in return (for their donation) is what makes his event unique."

Appearing this weekend in Lawrenceville will be guys like Hall-of-Famers Phil Niekro of the Atlanta Braves and Tommy Nobis of the Atlanta Falcons, both signing from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday. And former Falcons Scott Case and William Andrews will also be on hand along with Sam Baker, a rookie member of this year's Falcons' team.

Young or old, the athletes show up to help Reid in his support of Toys for Tots.

"We couldn't even begin to think about doing this if the (athletes) didn't donate their time," Reid said. "Some of them do it year after year. I can't thank them enough."

Reid, who counts Hall of Famer pitcher Bob Feller as the first autograph he ever got, has been in the collectibles business for 20 years. He started it as a fun diversion and it "grew into something bigger than we ever anticipated."

Growing up in Asheville, N.C., Reid said he listened to Braves games on a transistor radio. His favorites were Hank Aaron and then Niekro, guys he later got to meet through his business.

"Growing up in a small town, you never imagine even meeting a major leaguer let alone being friends with them," Reid said.

These days those friendships from autograph sessions and card shows of the past help Reid with his Toys for Tots campaign. And the Tucker resident is thankful for the support for an event that means a lot to him.

"It was a suggestion from a friend of mine, something I grabbed onto pretty quickly," Reid said of the idea of setting up an autograph show to support Toys for Tots. "My parents died when I was fairly young, (so) I'm passionate about kids and wanted to do something to help kids' charities."

And for 10 years now, he's been doing just that.

E-mail Todd Cline at todd.cline@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Tuesdays.

SideBar: If you go

· What: Autograph show benefiting Toys for Tots

· When: Friday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

· Where: Suite 135, Village Shoppes at Creekside, Lawrenceville

· Donations: One autograph ticket awarded for each toy donated

· Full schedule: www.autographhelper.com

· More info: Call 770-622-9344