By Alex Cate
It’s been almost seven years since Roger McDonald’s nephew was killed during a shooting in Central High School’s cafeteria, but McDonald’s commitment to keeping his nephew’s memory alive only intensifies with each passing year.
In 2011, he established the Ryan McDonald Toy Drive to ensure families throughout East Tennessee will have a toy to take home for their children at Christmas. “I’m trying to turn a negative into a positive and keep Ryan’s name out there so people won’t forget,” he said.
McDonald, a construction supervisor with Facilities Services at UT Knoxville, started by placing bins near his office and at Ingles Markets throughout Knox County and has since expanded to include the nearby Institute of Agriculture campus.
In 2013, his efforts resulted in the donation of more than 1,250 toys that were taken to Child and Family Tennessee and the Helen Ross McNabb Center for distribution. Sometimes toys aren’t the only thing donated. When the drive winds down, many times McDonald receives monetary donations, too, and he and his wife take the money and fill cart after cart full of toys from Walmart.
He also has set up a fund in his nephew’s name for the donations people made after the shooting. The fund has been used to supplement the toy drive and to further help struggling families in the area.
“Everybody can’t do a toy drive but everybody can do a little something to give back to the community,” McDonald said. “If everybody could do just a little something, you can imagine how much better this place would be.”