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CLINE: Autograph show supports Toys for Tots

Todd Cline

Todd Cline

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Doug Reid with Hall-of-Famer Phil Niekro

Over the years I've known him, Doug Reid has collected enough toys in the name of charity to fill his own mall. So it's fitting that Reid's 14th annual Toys for Tots toy drive will be held this week at Gwinnett Place Mall.

It's the first time Reid, who owns Venture Sports Shows, has been at one of Gwinnett's major malls for the event, which features local athletes signing autographs in return for toy donations. The toy drive runs Friday through Sunday and will be located next to Macy's in a large showroom that faces Interstate 85.

Reid thinks the exposure of being at the mall will increase traffic, and in turn, the amount of toys donated. Last year's drive, held at Coolray Field, collected $315,000 in toys and donations and Reid said he hopes this year's event can top the $330,000 mark.

"We're very excited to work with Gwinnett Place Mall and its management for this event," Reid said. "Gwinnett Place has long been one of the premiere malls in the Atlanta area and we believe it is a perfect fit both in location and prestige for our event. The mall management has been very instrumental in working with us to ensure that this year's event is our best ever. We believe that with the holiday shoppers and the spirit of the season, it will greatly enhance the amount of toys we will be able to collect for the needy children in and around the Atlanta area."

Venture Sports Shows is now an online business, but Reid originally started out with a store, located in Duluth at what then was known as Venture Mall, hence the name. The Toys for Tots campaign put on by the United States Marine Corps has long been a passion of Reid's, who combined that with his cards and memorabilia business to come up with a novel concept for a toy drive.

Each year Reid invites local athletes -- Hall-of-Famer Phil Niekro has long been a major supporter -- to sign for fans, who receive tickets for each $10 toy they donate. Fans exchange the tickets for autographs and can also shop at the card and collectible show that coincides with the toy drive. It's a win-win situation, with fans getting autographs and Toys for Tots getting a nice boost in donations.

In fact, Reid's event has been so successful he ranks No. 2 in the state as far as private contributions. But the Tucker resident is quick to deflect the credit to the many folks who volunteer, highlighted by the athletes themselves.

"I am always deeply honored and humbled that so many of these great athletes volunteer their time during this busy holiday season to help make the holidays special for needy children in and around this area," Reid said.

This year's show will feature former Falcon Brian Finneran and former New York Yankee Ron Blomberg along with Niekro and many others. Athletes will appear noon to 6 p.m. each day and a full schedule and more information can be found at www.vssgolf.com.

The Toys for Tots program is a great one, no matter where you donate. But if you find yourself close to Gwinnett Place Mall this weekend, check out the card show there and pick up a few autographs in the process. You'll have a good time and help some deserving children at the same time.

Email Todd Cline at todd.cline@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Wednesdays.