TOYS FOR TOTS
Always the first to giveEliot teen the first to donate to Stuff-A-Bus each of the last 12 years
By Ralph Morang
Posted Dec. 6, 2014 @ 2:40 pm
ELIOT, Maine – Since he was in first grade, Thomas Rasmussen, now a Marshwood High School senior, has been the first person each year to deliver toys to the Toys for Tots Stuff-A-Bus in Newington.
A college tour with his father this week did not interfere with that tradition, even though the colleges were in Denmark. Thomas was at the bus at 6 a.m. Friday, toys in hand. On Friday afternoon, Thomas and his parents, Henrik and Judy, sat in their living room trying to remember details of the Stuff-A-Bus tradition, jet lag notwithstanding. They agreed Thomas first heard about the toy drive from television and radio announcements. “You were adamant about going,” Henrik told Thomas.
Stuff-A-Bus has been run by WERZ-FM Z107 for 14 years, according to radio station operations manager Jeff Pierce.
Thomas thinks he donated a Lego set and a bracelet-making kit his first year. He again this year donated a Lego set, a bracelet kit, a duct tape wallet-making kit and a walkie-talkie set.
Another tradition continues: Thomas arrived before the bus did, as has happened several years, but WERZ DJ Jadd Naamani was setting up and recognized “the guy who is always first.”
Thomas and Henrik, a native of Denmark, arrived home Thursday night after a week in Denmark. Thomas’s ambition is to captain a ship: tanker or cargo vessel. They visited the Svendborg International Maritime Academy and Marstal Maritime School. Thomas said classes are taught in Danish, of which he said he has a basic understanding, and the textbooks are in English. The two also fit in visits to his grandparents in Svenborg and his sister in art school. They toured the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine last month.
To prepare for college, Thomas is taking advanced placement physics, pre-calculus and college-level English at Marshwood. But to attend a maritime college in Denmark, he’ll have to work in a crash course in Danish next summer.
Pierce said he has seen Thomas on the first Stuff-A-Bus day for several years. “Always waiting for us,” Pierce said.
The bus, donated by First Student, is a standard yellow school bus. Pierce said last year, 8,099 gifts were donated during the three-day event. With another bus stuffed in Manchester, a total of 14,000 toys were donated last year. Service Credit Union and WMUR in Manchester are partners. The toys are distributed by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots program.
“We appreciate him being the first person every year,” Pierce said of Thomas. “His mom was especially excited, because with him graduating from high school, this is probably his last year.”
Henrik said a European tradition, the Advent calendar, could have contributed to Thomas’s idea of donating toys. Henrik’s mother, Thomas’s grandmother, makes an Advent calendar by hand that includes a gift for each day of Advent.
“I can’t imagine anyone waking up on Christmas Day without anything to open,” Thomas said.
The Toys for Tots Stuff-A-Bus will be at The Crossings at Fox Run on Gosling Road in Newington on Sunday, Dec. 7 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. to accept new unwrapped toys.