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Portland metro Subaru dealers help Make-A-Wish Oregon provide a holiday shopping experiece for kids at local children's hospitals

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Fletcher Johnson, development manager with Make-A-Wish Oregon, helps unload toys collected by Portland-area Subaru dealers during their Stock the Storefront campaign. The toys were destined for Holiday Magic pop-up shops for young patients at Randall and Doernbecher children's hospitals.

If visitors to one of five Subaru dealer showrooms in the Portland metro area earlier this month thought they had stumbled into a toy store by mistake, the confusion would be easy to understand.

Subaru of Portland, Gresham Subaru, Wilsonville Subaru, Dick Hannah Subaru and Capitol Subaru all gave up some space in their showrooms in November and early December for toys dropped off by both customers and folks from the local community. The toy drive, called Stock the Storefront, was organized in partnership with Make-A-Wish Oregon.

The local Make-A-Wish is one of 60 chapters that are part of a national nonprofit organization that uses contributions from individuals and businesses to grants wishes for children with critical illnesses.

"Most of the kids who receive a wish go on to thrive," Kaitlyn Bolduc, communications manager for Make-A-Wish Oregon, told the Business Tribune. "But, we bring a little joy during some dark and scary times."

This past year, the local chapter granted a record-number 269 wishes, with 217 other kids still waiting their turn. Wishes granted are as imaginative as the kids who generate them, Bolduc said, and have included

sending a teen to Japan to see the cherry blossoms and providing a pony for a young girl.

The local Subaru dealerships that participated in the Stock the Storefront toy drive this year had all previously worked with Make-A-Wish Oregon to help make some wishes come true. Wilsonville Subaru, for example, helped cover the cost to send a boy who loves chocolate and wants to become a chef to New York City to meet a pastry chef. The dealership also closed its showroom for six hours for a party in the boy's honor that included a chocolate fountain and a ride in a sports car, according to Ron Owens, general manager at Wilsonville Subaru.

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - A volunteer prepares to stock stockings at a holiday shop at Randall Children's Hospital. The shops, set up by Make-A-Wish Oregon, provide an opportunity for young patients at Randall and Doernbecher's children's hospitals to pick out gifts for themselves and their family members.

Adding the Stock the Storefront toy drive during this holiday season to support Make-A-Wish Oregon's Holiday Magic event was just one more way to continue to support Subaru's involvement with the nonprofit, Owens said.

The Holiday Magic event has become an annual effort for Make-A-Wish Oregon. In the past, the toys have mostly come from toy drives held by local television stations like KGW. This is the first year that the nonprofit added toys collected through a partnership with a retail business, Bolduc said. Based on the result of six carloads of collected toys, it likely won't be the last for such a venture.

"We were blown away by how much (the Subaru dealers) got," Bolduc said.

The toys were split between Doernbecher Children's Hospital and Randall Children's Hospital to stock Holiday Magic storefronts. The pop-up shops allow young patients at the hospitals to select gifts for themselves and their family members.

"They don't have time to shop, and treatments often prevent them from leaving the hospital," Bolduc said. "What we do is bring a holiday shopping experience to the kids and their families. We're just trying to provide a little joy. We have more toys this year than ever before, and the kids are going to have a great selection to pick from."

The local Subaru dealerships aren't done giving to Make-A-Wish during the holidays, according to Owens. The company's Share the Love Event, which runs through Jan. 2, donates $250 for each new Subaru sold or leased. Those buying or leasing the cars get to pick the national nonprofit that will receive the associated donation, a list that includes Make A Wish.

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