LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — It's hard to imagine the holidays without gifts to give your kids, but that's the reality for a lot of families. Especially this year during the pandemic.
And December's Vegas Stronger Champions Robert and Sandy Ellis are working even harder in 2020 to make sure that's not the case. This philanthropic couple has been providing Christmas gifts to Clark County kids for nearly two decades.
The Ellis' have been hosting a series of drive-thru toy drives. One by one, cars get loaded up with holiday gifts for families who otherwise couldn't afford them.
"For some of these kids, this will be the only thing they’ll get for Christmas," said Robert Ellis.
It took extra planning this year to get these toy drives done from a safe social distance.
"This year, we didn’t know if we were going to do it or not because our joy is watching the smiling faces on the kids, the teachers, and the principals. And my wife says, 'look, we can’t penalize the kids. It’s not their fault that the pandemic is going on.' So, we decided we would do it this way," said Robert Ellis.
Robert Ellis and his wife, Sandy Ellis, are at the heart of these toy drives.
"We’ve been married 55 years. We sold our business about 13 years ago and we decided, let’s help the community. And what better way to help the community than with young kids? They are going to be the future runners of the United States," said Robert Ellis.
What began as a single school toy drive 16 years ago has expanded to more than 30 Southern Nevada schools. It's thanks in large part to the hundreds of thousands of dollars donated by the Ellis' themselves.
"Let’s start now. Let’s teach these kids to read and write and I can’t thank the teachers enough. Sandy and I are not the heroes. It’s the teachers, the principals, the staff that sees these kids' needs every day and my hat is off to them," said Robert Ellis.
This year's drive is Ethe llis' largest yet. With help from the community and Sketchers, they'll be providing toys, socks, and sneakers to more than 5,000 Clark County kids this Christmas.
"If you don’t have the money to buy shoes, you’re not happy and your feet are cold. So, we just like giving back," said Robert Ellis.
But, as he said, this is bigger than them, which is why he's calling on others to give back whatever they can.
"There’s so much money in this valley that my wife and I would like to see more people reach out and help schools. They can talk about it but if you don’t help them what are they going to do?" said Robert Ellis.
The Ellis' are currently working on establishing a foundation so their charitable work can continue after they're gone. They say their son will succeed them and keep the toy drive going.