Elizabethton native memorializes uncle with toy drive

Published 8:39 am Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Children in Georgetown, South Carolina will receive Christmas gifts this year thanks to the legacy left behind by Carl Ford of Elizabethton.
His nephew, Chris DeVault, an Elizabethton native and 1989 graduate of Elizabethton High School, carries on Ford’s love for Christmas by collecting presents and donating them to his local chapter of Toys for Tots.
DeVault described Ford’s mental handicap saying, “He grew up, but his mind never did.”
Ford lived a happy life to the age of 70 with what DeVault estimated was the mind of a 3-year-old.
“Christmas was always the best part of the year because Carl loved Christmas,” said DeVault. “He would count it down, asking people what they were bringing him and guessing what Santa would bring. For 70 years, we got to enjoy Christmas through the mind of a 3 year old. I wish everybody could have somebody like Carl in their life.”
He said it was always Ford’s favorite time of year, so he is trying to spread what he is calling “Carl’s Christmas Cheer.”
Eleven years ago, DeVault moved to South Carolina, where he is now the supervisor for the sports medical program at Tidelands Health Hospital. After Ford died in 2011, DeVault said he continued to celebrate Christmas and to give gifts to kids in need.
“When you don’t have a kid in your life, it’s still fun to go and Christmas shop for toys. Kids are easy to buy for–they love everything,” he said.
He said that two years ago, he started branching out and giving people the means to help. In Georgetown County last year, he said 1,200 children were registered with Toys for Tots. With the help of friends and coworkers, he collected 137 toys. This year, his goal is 200.
“The more they collect, the more people they can help, and the more people they can give more than one toy to,” he said.
Those interested in donating may do so via Amazon.com by searching Chris DeVault on the Wish List. Gifts purchased there will be sent directly to his house and distributed in Georgetown County. To send toys directly to DeVault, send an email to chris.atc@gmail.com.
“I think a lot of people in Elizabethton know my family and Carl and what it means to us,” he said. “A lot of friends back home wanted to help, so the Amazon wish list is a way for them to do it online and to get it shipped to me.”
Ford was the oldest of seven siblings, six of whom still live in Elizabethton. He said his mother bought gifts last year as if she were buying for Carl, and that participating keeps the memory of Ford fresh.
“I just want to help kids, it’s not for fame or notoriety,” he said. “It tickles my family and me because they get back into the gift giving like they did for Carl.”

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