Toy Donations Pour In At McEntire Concert

With 350 local families signed up for Toys For Tots this year, the donations made at the Susie McEntire concert Saturday night will help take care of over 650 kids for Christmas.
That does not include the children who Toys For Tots will help serve through Combined Community Services, Helping Hands and Salvation Army.
Approximately 11 large Toys For Tots boxes were filled Saturday. That’s in addition to the toys collected at the Toys For Tots annual toy drive Dec. 5 at Martin’s Super Market and Willie 103.5’s toy drive at Big R and Walmart Nov. 29 to Dec. 4. Donation boxes also were placed around Kosciusko County at a number of businesses.
“That will help take care of a number of those families, (with) all the other donations from Willie (103.5) to the rest of the community,” Warsaw Police Dept. Sgt. and former U.S. Marine Gunnery Sgt. David Morales, the Toys For Tots Kosciusko County area coordinator, said after the McEntire concert. “Not only tonight’s donations with the benefit concert will help supplement those families but everything else we’ve achieved so far.”
He said there was an increase in donations at this year’s McEntire concert over last year’s.
“We’ve had definitely much more donations this year compared to last year. A lot more folks showed up for the concert, so, yes, definitely an increase in donations tonight,” Morales said.
Susie McEntire, the sister of country artist Reba McEntire, performed at Lakeview Middle School Saturday. It is the second year she’s participated in the event.
It began with the Indiana Army Reserve Color Guard posting the colors and the national anthem.
Leesburg United Methodist Church Pastor Rob Seewald then thanked a list of concert supporters and noted that McEntire and her husband, Mark Eaton, also were going to be a part of the church’s service Sunday morning. The church was one of the sponsors of Saturday’s concert.
Before introducing McEntire, Willie 103.5’s Chris Cage said over 4,200 toys were brought in during the radio station’s toy drive. He named all the sponsors of the concert and introduced Morales.
Cage said of McEntire, “It’s amazing how much passion she has for what she does plus for Toys For Tots.”
Her performance was a mix of traditional Christmas, country music and sacred songs. She started the concert with the song “Wonderful, Merciful Savior” followed by “Let It Snow.” Between the two songs, she said sister Reba sent her greetings to everyone and thanked everyone for supporting a great cause. She also reminded everyone that they were there to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
Some of the other songs McEntire performed before being joined onstage by her husband included Keith Urban’s “Love Somebody Like You,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” James Taylor’s “Shower the People” and “Here Comes Santa Claus.”
The night wasn’t all song, as McEntire spoke about being raised in Oklahoma, her family, the weather, meeting her husband and about her maternal grandmother.
Once Eaton joined her on stage, they sang a few songs together and bantered with one another. He got her to talk about how she started singing and about performing in various venues like honky tonks, which spurred her on to sing a bit of Loretta Lynn’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man.”
Eaton performed one of his humorous songs, “Larry Did You Know,” a song about a plumber, which was a take on “Mary Did You Know.”
He stepped off the stage for a bit while McEntire performed with the choir from Warsaw Christian School. After they sang “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Jingle Bells,” Santa and Mrs. Claus came out. The kids then sang “Happy Anniversary” to McEntire and Eaton as it was their sixth wedding anniversary. Concert organizer Mike Loher then brought a gift basket out to the couple.
After several more songs and more interaction between McEntire and Eaton, she spoke about how she met him.
“I had been married in an abusive relationship for 26 years. I just got divorced. I believe God had sent Mark to my life,” she said. To Eaton, McEntire said, “You have been a wonderful gift to me.”
Eaton said she also saved his life.
He then spoke about Mary and Joseph and how they were unwanted by friends and relatives in Joseph’s hometown of Bethlehem because Mary was 17 years old, unwed and pregnant. They had to stay in a manger because all the inns were full. That child of an unwed teen mother turned out to be Christ. Eaton said God makes good things out of chaos.
They then sang Reba’s “Mary, Did You Know?” before going into a medley of Christmas songs including “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “O Holy Night” and Eaton sang “Silent Night” in German.
For the last few songs, McEntire sang “Chestnuts Roasting On an Open Fire,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “Have Yourself A Very Merry Christmas” solo.

(Story By The Times Union)