Mystery donor pays off 150 lay-bys at Toyworld

GIFT OF KINDNESS: Toyworld manager Brooke Colquhoun and owner Patrick Williams. Picture: Paul Scambler
GIFT OF KINDNESS: Toyworld manager Brooke Colquhoun and owner Patrick Williams. Picture: Paul Scambler

It's an understandably busy time of year down at Tasmania's Launceston Toyworld, but that didn't prevent owner Patrick Williams stopping in his tracks when he received a surprise phone call earlier this month.

"I got a call saying there was a group - they've chosen to stay anonymous, but they told me they wanted to pay off some toys on lay-by," he said.

At that point, Mr Williams had no idea of the scale of donation the mysterious group on the end of the phone were proposing.

When he heard the undisclosed amount, Mr Williams realised that the sum would cover, or partly cover, a significant amount of the store's lay-bys.

In the lead-up to Christmas, the store can amass as many as 700 lay-bys, as parents attempt to put key toys aside early to ensure their children have something special to open come December 25.

"I've never known anything like it," he said.

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The act of generosity follows a similar event at a Toyworld on the Gold Coast, where an anonymous group paid off more than $16,000 worth of lay-bys.

It's unknown whether or not the two events are the same group or if the Launceston donation was inspired by the first. Similarly, the exact amount donated to Launceston Toyworld remains unknown, but Mr Williams has disclosed that more than 150 toys were either paid off, or partly paid off by the anonymous donation.

With the amount decided upon, it was then up to the Toyworld staff to figure out how best to spread the funds across a long list of possible candidates. To help stretch the good deed across as many recipients as possible, the team settled on a maximum dollar amount: if a lay-by exceeded that figure, then the gift would only be partly paid off and the remaining money would then be passed onto the next lay-by.

All that was left was to pick the lucky recipients out of a hat and wait for them to return to the shop and discover the good news.

"We decided to just let people come in and get the good news that way," Mr Williams said.

According to store manager Brooke Colquhoun, the news brought tears to the eyes of some parents.

"We've had people just burst out crying," she said,

"It's been a difficult year for some people and this has been a real bright spot," Mr Williams added.

That said, Ms Colquhoun was surprised when one man didn't seem to react at all when he heard the news - until the next day when his wife rang the store in tears.

"She said he was just so overwhelmed by the news that he didn't know what to do," she said.

Ms Colquhoun is no stranger to acts of kindness herself, often playing a role in the numerous donations and drives that feature at this time of the year.

"We'll often get a charity or a group come in and say, 'We have x amount of money - go nuts,'" she said.

From there it's up to Ms Colquhoun to meticulously pick out individual gifts for dozens of children.

"It's a lot of work but I love doing it. I try to pick out something special for each child," she said.

But even after assisting in dozens of toy donations over her 19 years with the store, Ms Colquhoun admitted she's never witnessed anything quite like this year's donation.

"We've never had anything on this scale before," she said.

Likewise, the event has left a lasting impact on Mr Williams, even after 16 years owning the toy shop.

"The generosity of some people is just amazing," he said.

"After we heard about the lay-by donation someone else rang up later that day and said they wanted to organise some toys for kids in protective custody - it just warms your heart at this time of year," he said.

This story Mystery donor pays off 150 Christmas lay-bys at Aussie toy shop first appeared on The Examiner.