This one's for you, Mom
Toy drive set up by former Forrest athlete in honor of late mother
One of the most poignant moments in your life is when your Mom passes away, rattling your soul and leaving an empty space that can never be re-filled.
For Chapel Hill native and former Forrest Rocket footballer and wrestler Jason Buchanan, that moment came on September 20, 2009 when his mom, Kathy Savage Williams passed away.
"That Christmas was the first without her and I honestly cannot remember it," Buchanan said. "Life was a blur for some time after she passed and it took me a long time to recover emotionally."
Buchanan, who was Class President at Forrest in 1993 lived on High Street and for some time, Williams ran the Main Street Video Store in town.
"My mother always made Christmas huge, she gave me so much, too much," Buchanan said. "She would even wrap the presents under the tree that Santa brought and made it so magical."
An outstanding athlete at Forrest, Buchanan was selected to the all-district football team his junior and senior seasons and the Rocket guard/linebacker also was selected to the Mid-State Team his graduating year.
Buchanan started all four years for the Rockets, playing his freshman and sophomore seasons for legendary Forrest football coach Murrey E. Holton.
He was the conference weightlifting champion and posted a 22-3 record on the Forrest wrestling team his senior year as well.
Buchanan went on to play football at the University of North Alabama, but an old knee injury resurfaced, ending his athletic career.
Life went on for Buchanan as he dabbled in the stand-up comedic industry and eventually his contacts landed him a gig in the music industry at Nashville.
Buchanan now works at one of the premiere live music venues in the Music City, called The Basement.
Buchanan remembers being unsatisfied as the 2010 Christmas approached, still thinking about his mom and her love for the holiday season.
"Realizing that every Christmas for the rest of my life would not include her, well, that was really hard on me," Buchanan said.
Instead of dwelling on the past, Buchanan re-opened it to live in the present and bring back that Christmas spirit his mom so instilled in him as a boy.
He had an idea that creating a Christmas toy drive in Williams' honor would be a great way to keep those special feelings alive .
He posted his thoughts on Facebook and the dream was up and running, like it or not.
"Once I wrote that, of course I actually had to do it," Buchanan said. "So my plan was and still is to go to local businesses and introduce myself and my idea, then advertise it via social media."
Buchanan called the charitable venture "Toys for Kathy's Little Girls and Boys" and used his connections in the music industry to begin his work of giving back for Mom.
"That's pretty much it. It isn't "on paper" and it isn't a business," Buchanan said. "It is a spirit, if you will. I have found that for the most part, people want to help and that is uplifting."
"In a way, all of the children in the Vanderbilt Children's Hospital are her children and that's why I named it Toys for Kathy's Little Girls and Boys."
This will be the sixth year of the toy drive and for all of those years, Buchanan has donated the toys to the Vanderbilt Children's Hospital at Nashville.
"I chose the Vanderbilt Children's Hospital to give the toys collected to, partly because I didn't know where else to send them," Buchanan said. "I have thought to give to the less fortunate families, but I wasn't sure how to organize that."
The Toys for Kathy's Little Girls and Boys venture has been a huge success and last year the staff at Vanderbilt told Buchanan that it was the largest toy drop off ever at the children's hospital.
"Although I have never seen it as a competition and that was very flattering to me, astonishing actually," said Buchanan. "A boy from little Chapel Hill was able, with a lot of help collect the largest amount of toys to be turned in to Vanderbilt Children's Hospital here in the big city of Nashville last year, all in my late mother's honor. That is something I will always be proud of."
Buchanan is quick to point out that without the help of local businesses, his people connections in the music industry and all the people that give, none of this would be possible.
"Without the businesses agreeing to help, without the people willing to give, without living in Nashville and working in music...it wouldn't be a reality. The people make it actually exist and for that I am very thankful," Buchanan reiterated.
On Saturday night Buchanan's longtime supporters in the music industry will continue their help with the efforts when Toys for Kathy's Little Girls and Boys will be the highlight of a rock and roll Christmas Show at the 5 Spot in Nashville, featuring The Hillbilly Casino, The Highjivers and Clownvis Presley.
"They (Hillbilly Casino) actually have a Christmas album, so during these shows they play rock and roll Christmas music and are always a lot of fun." "They are actually the only band I ever took my mother to go see."
Where to give
Local drop off places for Toys for Kathy's Girls and Boys is the First Commerce Bank locations in Lewisburg and Chapel Hill.
The toys must be unwrapped with the deadline for drop off at noon on Thursday, December 17.
Anyone looking to find out what type of toys to give can visit the Vanderbilt Children's Hospital Wish List website at www.childrenshospital.vanderbilt.org.
Buchanan and Chapel Hill First Commerce Bank manager David Delk will deliver the toys to Vanderbilt Thursday afternoon.
"Although my mother passed way six years ago, it can still be pretty emotional and it is sort of bittersweet for me, " said Buchanan. "Of course I wish my mother was still here, but in the condition that she was in is also very selfish of me. So if nothing else, I wanted to keep her spirit and her name alive and I think the toy drive does that."