The Nisqually Valley Moose Lodge in Yelm has hosted a toy drive each year to provide a memorable Christmas to less fortunate students in Yelm Community Schools for about 15 years, and perhaps had its most memorable drive this year in 2023.
The Moose Lodge has hosted Yelm football’s team dinners on the night before game day for the 14-week season, including the week of the 3A state championship. Each week, the lodge welcomed the team into the building to enjoy a dinner, typically provided by the team’s parents. As a way of saying thank you, the team donated over 100 toys to the lodge’s toy drive.
“That’s all them,” Rhonda Kinnaman, fraternal activities chair at the Moose Lodge, said in reference to the football team being responsible for the pile of toys underneath the Christmas tree. “It’s amazing.”
Christine Ronquillo, wife of Yelm football’s head coach Jason Ronquillo, is a community outreach specialist with Yelm Community Schools and helped spark the idea of the Yelm football team giving back to the Moose Lodge during the holiday season.
“Christine is incredible, she’s been wonderful,” Kinnaman said. “We work with the school year round for different programs that they’re doing as well. We support their hygiene drives, their coat drives — whatever they’re doing we support. It’s a great collaboration all the way around.”
The donations from Yelm’s football program coincided with the Moose Lodge’s members “giving tree,” which Nisqually Valley Moose Lodge President Sherry Spooner said had a lot of member participants.
“They were able to take a name tag off the tree for a toy, and we asked them to bring it back by Nov. 30, so we could get the toy to their parents. I don’t think we have any names left on the giving tree,” Spooner said. “With the Moose Fraternity, we have to do fundraisers for our community, and we get to be involved with our community. That’s what we’re here for. To me, this has been heartwarming.”
Kinnaman said the Nisqually Valley Moose Lodge will have a wrapping party with some of their members and volunteers from the school district on Dec. 6.
She described the process as a several-hour long event but more than worth it in the end.
“Yelm is a very giving town. Our local businesses are fantastic. They are amazing,” Kinnaman said.
“We set up here, and all the donations that everyone has brought, we go to town and wrap them all. It’s then taken to the school district for distribution before they get out of school for winter break.”
Roy Kinnaman, with the Nisqually Valley Moose Lodge, described Yelm as a special and thoughtful town.
“It’s sad that we have to do this, but it’s awesome to get this kind of support,” he said.