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Organization kicks off suitcase drive for foster children

Special Photo 
The Eighth Annual "Totes 2 Tots" Suitcase Drive, in support of needy foster children, is scheduled to take place next week at various Georgia Cancer Specialists and Atlanta Oncology Associates locations across the state.

Special Photo The Eighth Annual "Totes 2 Tots" Suitcase Drive, in support of needy foster children, is scheduled to take place next week at various Georgia Cancer Specialists and Atlanta Oncology Associates locations across the state.

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Georgia Cancer Specialists, and Atlanta Oncology Associates, will launch the Eighth Annual "Totes 2 Tots" Suitcase Drive for Foster Children on Monday.

Throughout the week, various offices around the state will be collecting new, or nearly new, backpacks and small suitcases to deliver to Georgia's foster children.

Many of those children must shuffle their belongings from home to home in garbage bags, during "frequent relocations," said Ryan Klee, a spokesman for the Totes 2 Tots campaign.

The annual volunteer campaign was first launched by Georgia Cancer Specialists (GCS) in 2003, and has collected and distributed more than 17,800 bags. Klee said the campaign has grown annually, collecting some 4,500 bags in 2008, and more than 5,000 in 2009.

"Totes 2 Tots is a service project we're truly proud to support in the spirit of honoring Dr. King's dream," said GCS President and CEO Bruce Feinberg. "With the increasing community involvement 'Totes' has experienced every year, I can only imagine what we will collectively achieve in 2010."

Georgia Cancer Specialists' Stockbridge office, located at 1045 Southcrest Dr., Suite 200, is one of 23 GCS and Atlanta Oncology Associates offices across Georgia participating in this year's suitcase drive. The Stockbridge office, alone, collected 90 bags and suitcases in 2009, 20 more than in 2008.

"The purpose of Totes is to give to children in need, and we're proud to be involved," said Dale McCord, the president and CEO of Atlanta Oncology Associates.

GCS and the Atlanta Oncology Associates will host a culminating event on Jan. 15, from 10 a.m., until 2 p.m. -- a final push to collect bags at their 23 offices statewide, according to Klee. He said the annual event is held the Friday before Martin Luther King Day to commemorate and kick-off a weekend of community service.

This also marks the sixth year GCS has partnered with WSB-TV in the Totes 2 Tots campaign, Klee said. WSB-TV agreed to support the campaign in 2005, when the television station began including the Totes 2 Tots campaign in its Family 2 Family Project.

Klee said GCS and the Atlanta Oncology Associates will donate the bags to Georgia's Division of Family and Children's Services (DFCS) to be distributed within the counties where they were collected.

"Leaving home is a traumatic enough experience for a child, without them having to worry about what will happen to their belongings," said Mark Washington, Georgia Department of Human Services Assistant Commissioner for DFCS. "Something as simple as providing a piece of luggage for their cherished possessions is a source of comfort in an otherwise difficult situation."

For more information, visit the GCS web site, or call 1-877-716-CARE (2273).

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